Mozilla’s fledgling Firefox OS will provide a way for device makers to avoid some of the shortcomings of Android – including the legal issues – Yotam Ben-Ami, director of Open Web Devices at Telefonica, told Mobile World Live.

Speaking ahead of last month’s Firefox OS event at Mobile World Congress, which saw 17 operators committing support to the platform, and with LG Electronics and Huawei joining the device maker roster, the executive said that “if you look at the way the profits currently divide in the mobile industry, it’s pretty clear that it’s not really working out for most OEMs”.

With Android surrounded by a number of ongoing legal battles, which have included high-profile cases involving Samsung, HTC and others, Ben-Ami said that “I can’t tell you there’s not going to be any litigation around Firefox, but certainly there is specific litigation that [vendors] know will not apply to them on Firefox that would apply on Android”.

“It’s a very litigious space, and not only that but they know how the litigation is going to pan-out, because there’s case law in place. So one of the things we’ve actually done with Firefox OS is look at the case law. We’ve looked at the patents, we’ve made tweaks to the platform to ensure that much of the current litigation won’t hit them,” he said.

With Google having acquired Motorola last year, Ben-Ami also said that vendors have been placed in an “uncomfortable situation”.

According to the executive, Firefox OS devices are being developed using Android hardware as a base, meaning that “the incremental cost for a vendor to support Firefox OS is not massive – you can take existing hardware and repurpose it”.

However, while hardware costs are therefore similar, Firefox OS delivers a “superior experience” over Android in performance terms. “So in like-for-like performance, there is a price advantage,” he argued.

And while much of the focus on Firefox OS has been on entry-level devices for emerging markets, at least one device is being readied for the mid-tier, and there are also opportunities in developed countries.

“Even for the lower-end devices, we are planning on pushing one in Spain as a reference prepaid device, and that’s a significant opportunity for us,” the Telefonica executive said.