Microsoft, Toshiba cross-license patents

Microsoft and Toshiba have signed a cross-licensing deal covering computer and digital consumer electronics technologies.

Toshiba and Microsoft have signed a cross-licensing pact covering computer and consumer electronics products technologies, the companies said Friday.

The agreement was signed in late April and allows the companies to freely use a number of each other's patents, said Makoto Yasuda, a spokesman from Toshiba.

Spokesmen from Toshiba and Microsoft declined to discuss how many patents were included in the agreement, or how long the agreement is valid.

"I am afraid it's confidential," Yasuda said.

The deal follows a December 2003 decision by Microsoft to enter into cross-licensing deals with key partners, said Kazunori Ishii, a spokesman at Microsoft's Japanese unit.

Since then, Microsoft has also signed cross-licensing deals with a number of companies including Siemens SAP, he said.

Toshiba isn't the first major Japanese electronics maker to sign such an agreement.

Last December, Sony signed a five-year cross-licensing deal with Samsung Electronics covering a total of 24,000 patents owned by the two companies, as part of a move to reduce costs and potential friction between the two companies, Sony said.

At the time, Sony said such agreements were becoming necessary because of the sharp rise in the number of patents filed for digital and networking technologies over the last 10 years.

A number of major Japanese electronics companies have recently become entangled in patent infringement suits, some of which are still ongoing.

For example, Toshiba was found liable and ordered to pay US$380 million in damages to Lexar Media in March in a dispute over flash memory technologies. Toshiba is also locked into a further case of patent infringement over other patents with Lexar.

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