IndustryPatent Absurdity? Google, Microsoft in War of Words Over Android ‘Patent Attacks’

Patent Absurdity? Google, Microsoft in War of Words Over Android 'Patent Attacks'

Google condemned "a hostile, organized campaign” being waged through “bogus patents” against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, and Apple. Unfortunately for them, Microsoft quickly rebutted by showing that they'd attempted to work jointly with Google.

Google brazenly released a blog post condemning the patent strategies of Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle. Unfortunately for them, Microsoft quickly rebutted by showing that they’d attempted to work jointly with Google.

Google’s Anti-Microsoft (and Apple, and Oracle) Slam

patent-bwDavid Drummond, a Google SVP and Chief Legal Officer, wrote an audacious post on the official company blog. While the entire thing is worth a read, some of the most stinging lines and sentiments include the accusation that there’s “a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents,” that these companies are not “competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation,” and that the strategy being used is the “accumulation of dubious patents for anti-competitive means.”

It’s understandable why Google would be frustrated with this sort of patent accumulation and, you know, suing. Google’s currently fighting against Oracle in what may be one of the biggest patent cases of all time, ever. More recently, Google was faced with threats against its webM video format based on patents from a dozen different companies.

Google themselves have stated that patents interfere with innovation, and that their own bidding is designed to – in whatever strange sense – set the patents, and the ideas they support, free. That’s why Google was bidding on the Nortel package against Microsoft and others in July.

That patent collection is the center of Google’s current frustrations, but maybe it wouldn’t have been had Google taken the entire situation more seriously. Instead of bidding “real numbers,” Google made bids such as $3.14159 billion (Pi), an amount equal to the distance between the earth and sun, and the Meissel-Mertens constant. While criticized by some, yours truly just thinks that’s awesome – unless, of course, your objective is to actually win the patents.

Microsoft’s Response

The Empire Microsoft struck back quickly, and primarily through Twitter. Two Microsoft reps laughed off the Google post, telling the world that Microsoft had actually tried to initiate a joint bid with Google for the Nortel patents.

Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s head of communications, tweeted, “Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog.” He then shared the following email:

Brad –
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you — I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we’re open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.
I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
– Kent

Several bloggers took up Microsoft’s side (which, let’s be honest, is a rarity), with MG Siegler of TechCrunch even stating, “this really does undercut Google’s entire argument.” Forbes also notes that “Conspicuously missing here is any mention of patent reform.”

The Swinging Continues

Google didn’t take it lying down. Drummond updated his blog post, claiming that Microsoft was simply attempting to divert attention from the real issue. Most importantly, he stated, the joint acquisition would have made the patents worthless to Google. According to Drummond:

A joint acquisition of the Novell patents that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners. Making sure that we would be unable to assert these patents to defend Android — and having us pay for the privilege — must have seemed like an ingenious strategy to them. We didn’t fall for it.

The updates also reminds users that the DOJ sided with Google when Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, and EMC purchased a patent package from Novell.

It’s quite a fist fight. Question is: is either side winning?


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