How much Microsoft patents are really worth?

How much Microsoft patents are really worth?

Here's a small list of "features" that you'll find in any smartphone:

1. Activating the phone using a pin
2. Making emergency calls
3. Search engine integration
4. Making voice commands
5. Navigating the web
6. Writing emails
7. Geolocation (maps/satelite/navigation)
8. Buying things in a marketplace
9. Talking to friends via instant messager
10. Alarm clock
11. Calendar
12. Calculator
13. Taking photos
14. Reading news
15. Taking notes
16. Reading/editing texts
17. Recording sounds
18. Playing video
19. Playing music
20. Managing contacts
21. Making phone calls


All these ideas sound trivial? But each of them is covered by a number of patents. In fact, a typical smartphone is covered by 250,000 patents (Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/17/technology/a-bull-market-in-tech-patents.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all). If manufacturers paid $0.01 for each patent, smartphones would cost $2,500 -- and that wouldn't even include the manufacturing costs!

Thus, I think we can agree that patents *cannot* cost $0.01. At least the simplest ones.

Now, let's take look at the patents that Microsoft is using to get money from Barnes & Noble and other Android phone makers:

Patent #6,957,233: Making annotations in read-only documents

Patent #6,891,551: Highlighting and selecting elements of electronic documents

Patent #5,778,372: Quickly downloading documents from a browser

Read that again.

Microsoft thinks that making anotations in a read-only document (which implies saving the anotations in a separate file) or highliting and selecting elements from a document (which is done since the first text editors, 25 years ago) and downloading *documents* are so important features that Android manufactorers should pay a few bucks for each smartphone sold.

Remember: if manufacturers paid $0.01 for each trivial patent, smartphones would cost $2,500. That's simply impossible!

What would be a fair value of trivial and unimportant patents like these?

So... let's consider that the price of a smartphone is $800. If companies are supposed to pay, directly or indirectly, for each one of the 250,000 patents, the price for each one would be $0.0032. Let's make it $0.01 per license. (Microsoft deserves that.)

That would give Microsoft $0.03 per device sold. Is that fair?

Let's see: Android manufacturers are expected to sell 180 million devices per year, that three patents would give Microsoft a whooping $5.4 million per year.

That's enough to hire a team of 54 engineers. Do you think 54 engineers could possibly come up with more inovative ideas like "Making annotations in read-only documents", "Highlighting and selecting elements of electronic documents", and "Quickly downloading documents from a browser"?

Sounds like a good deal, unless Microsoft wants to use their patents in anticompetitive ways.

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