Apple has sued HTC for patent infringement with Android almost certainly being the target, now it turns out Microsoft believes Android also infringes on their patents and HTC has just paid up.

That means the free-as-in-Google smartphone OS isn't free anymore -- it's just Microsoft who's getting the money for it, and from the maker of the Nexus One, Desire, Legend, and Droid Incredible no less. That hurts Android.

How the deal affects HTC's position in the Apple patent infringement case, however, is unclear. If HTC can point to a licensed Microsoft patent for technology Apple claims HTC is infringing upon then that no doubt helps HTC and hurts Apple and the iPhone.

With Windows Phone 7 series fast approaching, it looks like Microsoft took the opportunity to get more than a little Sun Tzu on their smartphone rivals last night.

Now lets see how Google -- and Apple -- respond.

[CNET via Android Central]