A couple of years ago Microsoft went on a warpath suing dozens of device makers who were using Android and infringing on its patents, often using a patent troll named Rockstar. It sued Google, Barnes & Noble, Nokia, HTC and others, forcing competitors to collectively cough up billions in licensing fees.
Many of those device makers now pay Microsoft a certain fee for each handset sold, believe it or not, and that's how — at least a few years ago — Microsoft was making more off of Android than it did Windows Phone. Few people knew just how many patents Microsoft owned that gave it so much control over Android device makers, until now.
China's Ministry of Commerce was worried about Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia a few months back, mainly because it was concerned that Microsoft was going to try to attack even more device makers once it owned Nokia's treasure trove of patents, too. It was so concerned that it dug deeper and eventually published a list a huge list of the mobile patents Microsoft owns — 310 in total that cover everything from extensible file systems to data synchronization and radio interfaces. Ars Technica even spotted a few new patents, including one tied to customer local search and locating a user using a wireless network with "environmentally profiled data."
Just perusing the list makes it seem awfully hard to create a smartphone that doesn't infringe on one of the patents, which is why Microsoft is able to negotiate licensing deals with so many OEMs (apparently more than 70 percent of Android devices on the market are sold by companies who license Microsoft's tech).
China's Ministry of Commerce wants Microsoft to be more transparent on its patents, Ars Technica said, which is why it's publishing this list of data that should otherwise be public. Will it change the way Microsoft operates? The company has said it's fighting to be more transparent, so perhaps it will. Check out the full list of patents at China's site.