It's on the back of Microsoft's pursuit against Android - where it collects royalties for every device sold thanks to a patent agreement - but that has got Barnes & Noble's back up.
Barnes & Noble took its complaint to the US Justice Department's antitrust division, claiming foul play and bullying from Ballmer's gang.
In a letter seen by the Wall Street Journal, Barnes & Noble's general counsel Eugene DeFelice complained that Microsoft's "willingness to bully small players with expensive litigation" effectively stops businesses entering the market.
"Microsoft's exorbitant licenses for its patents entrench the dominant players in the relevant markets because those players can afford to take a license," he continued, "while small players cannot".
The company took the complaints to the International Trade Commission. There, it is on the back foot against Microsoft in a patent infringement lawsuit. The book seller hasn't disclosed how much Microsoft wants it to pay for licensing, however, it did mention it was too much.
Mobile heavyweights like HTC and Samsung, who both have a range of popular Android handsets, are big enough to bite the bullet and give Microsoft some dosh per device sold. Google accepts that, at least for the moment, Microsoft has one thumb on Android.
A Microsoft spokesperson said Redmond would be delighted to grant Barnes & Noble a licence for a fair fee. Its patents are available on "reasonable terms," the spokesperson said.