Patents. Can’t live with ’em , can’t make ’em illegal. Or something like that.

Microsoft seems to like patents an awful lot lately, especially if they’re patents relating to a certain mobile operating system that MSFT otherwise doesn’t have much to do with. After inking deals with the likes of HTC and Samsung, Microsoft has now reached a royalty agreement with Quanta. QuantWHO? Quanta Computers, aka “The largest manufacturer of notebook computers in the world.” Quanta doesn’t sell consumer products – they generally work as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) contracted to assemble the products that name brand computer makers sell you. Quanta’s client list includes Apple, Dell, Lenovo, LG, RIM, and Sony, to name just a handful.  They’ve also been linked to Facebook, by way of designing servers for the Open Compute Project and, most recently, Amazon.

Yup, Quanta is believed by most to be the OEM churning out all of those Kindle Fire tablets everyone keeps pre-ordering. Kindle Fire, of course, runs a heavily customized version of Android. Hmm.

Microsoft’s press release doesn’t get into specifics. Instead, Redmond brags about how successful they’ve been at enforcing their Android and Chrome-related patents and uses language like “broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for Quanta’s tablets, smartphones and other consumer devices running the Android or Chrome Platform.” The document makes it clear that MSFT stands to collect royalties, which apparently is worth more to them right now than licensing their own Windows Phone platform.

So the question boils down to this: Does “Quanta’s tablets, smartphones, and other consumer devices” refer only to devices sold under Quanta’s own brand name, or does it extend to those products built by Quanta as an OEM for companies like Amazon? If it’s the former, this essentially boils down to another knock against Google’s “Free for everyone!” Android marketing strategy, but nothing for Amazon to worry about. But if it’s the latter, Microsoft just moved up another several notches on the Patent Troll Top 40, and Amazon may be gearing up for some “Fire-y” negotiations with Steve Ballmer & Co.