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27

Google throws a tantrum -- accuses Microsoft, others, of "hostile, organized campaign"

A few weeks ago, Google was involved in bidding for 6,000 patents being offered by Nortel, which many thought if Google should win, would beef up their defense against patent litigation. Instead, they lost to a consortium of Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Sony, EMC and Ericsson for $4.5 billion. Basically everyone won except Google. At the time this story was spun two ways:

  1. Nortel's patent were old, outdated and not worth the money for Google
  2. Google wasn't taking it seriously, with Reuters calling their behavior "mystifying" because their bids reflected famous mathematical constants (Brun's, Meissel-Mertens and Pi). Yes, Google actually bid Pi ($3.14159 billion). So in an attempt to be cute and witty, they lost.

After all the gnashing of teeth by tech analysts, who kept pounding Google on their lack of patent strategy, Google has come out with some name calling and accusations of their own:

"But Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.

They’re doing this by banding together to acquire Novell’s old patents (the “CPTN” group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel’s old patents (the “Rockstar” group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn’t get them; seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Mobile; and even suing Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it."

That's David Drummond, Senior VP and CLO of Google, who can't even get that's its called Windows Phone, not Mobile. Further, he notes the reported Justice Department's probe into whether or not that Nortel consortium was fair. Of course, such a probe is a far way off from meaning those companies are guilty of anything. In fact, nothing has been settled in regards to whether or not Android violates patents, uses lifted code, etc.

In the case of Microsoft, who's leaned on HTC and now Samsung for patent fees, both companies are willing to play ball either because they feel those patent claims are indefensible or, more likely, that's it's cheaper to license to Microsoft than defend in court. But hey, it's not like Google/YouTube don't screw with Microsoft either.

In the end, we don't have anything new here except that Google is really starting to feel the pain from other companies, hence the 'boo hoo, tech is hard!' post from Drummond. Is Microsoft's, Apple's and others behavior legal, moral and right? That's for the courts to decide, not missives from company blogs.

Edit: Recommended reading: FossPatent's "Google's new anti-patent stance has four credibility issues -- but not the one many people think"

Source: The Official Google Blog

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Comments

There are 27 comments. Sign in to comment

OGCF says:

Nice write up Daniel. I feel exactly the same way.

They should have bid Avogadro's number.

samjwest says:

So go innovate! That's what patents were intended to encourage, correct Google?

Rico says:

Fun fact: The age of the Earth is roughly 4.5 billion years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_Earth

elcapo24682 says:

more fuel for my disgust towards google.

1jaxstate1 says:

Sound like a fanboy to me too. Anyone actually know of the patents that Google is talking about. If it's true, the Justice Department should drop the hammer on both Apple and MS. They should investigate both MS/Apple to see if they are charging Google more than any other company for using said patents.

elcapo24682 says:

read my comment above

And Google's post by their CLO didn't come off as fan-boyish?Since when do we start taking a company's word on what is legal/not legal. Let the courts decide, let the DoJ decide. If Google wants to make this spat public and start dropping accusations, then they should be prepared for some backlash.

v3rn says:

I'm a WP7 user, but I agree with Google here. And also found your post a bit too one sided for me. I don't see how you can read the post on the Google blog, read the news about what's going, stay neutral, and still come to the conclusion that what these companies are doing to Android isn't wrong.They're just buying up patents that aren't worth the money at all just to bully manufacturers into not using Android and instead use WP7 or something else because it's cheaper to put on phones. It's ridiculous and hurts competition which in turn hurts innovation.

Sorry, but all we're getting here is Google's side which is hardly objective in the matter. They think they've been slighted and perhaps they have, but that's for the courts, DoJ to decide not bloggers, tech journalists or commenters. Google's post came off as complaining, pure and simple. If their case is so strong, then having to publicly lambaste your opponents shouldn't be necessary. And with do respect, who are you to decide if Microsoft's portfolio of patents are legit or not? If you had your own company an valued IP, would you not defend it if you though you had a case? It's Microsoft's obligation to their stock holders to defend their patents in court, regardless of your feeling on them.

v3rn says:

"...but that's for the courts, DoJ to decide not...tech journalists..."Case against what? They can't do anything because the patent system here in the US is so bad. Manufacturers are going to go to court over these patents which are so broad and cover pretty much everything related to a cell phone that they are going to lose or end up settling and have to pay money for each device they sell. There isn't much Google can do other than try to get the patent system reworked, or put pressure on the DoJ into looking at any illegal activity involving buying the patents.Software patents are a joke. They're so broad that it's almost impossible to not infringe on a patent. 5 companies could solve the same problem and all 5 of them could be the same and infringe on each other. Doesn't mean they were ever copied. It's a big reason why a lot of countries refuse to give patents on software.And that blog post just came off as just trying to explain what's going on to the public and get some public support. Google needs the public behind them to help put pressure on the US patent office and the DoJ. The software patent system needs to be reworked, and it needs to be done soon. All this patent fighting isn't going to get any better, and in the long run it's going to hurt us, the consumers.

>"Case against what? "See Oracle vs Google for one.>"Software patents are a joke. They're so broad that it's almost impossible to not infringe on a patent."You're implying all software patents are a joke because they are too broad and I find such a comment too broad. Surely there are valid software patents out there, not all of them certainly, but you can't tell me that companies like Microsoft don't have valid software patents. You don't think the developers of Multitouch deserve a patent? Nor Surface? What about codecs? None of those are worth defending or patenting and you want to talk about stifling innovation? So the question is once again: who are you to decide what is too broad and a joke? Saying all of Microsoft's claims are "too broad" is one **** of a big assumption. Maybe they, maybe they aren't, but lets not act like we actually know, mkay?You seem to be conflating the broken patent system with legitimate claims to IP infringement. There is a distinction and we don't know where Google falls.

Averry says:

Google has no where near the amount of patents the tech dinosaurs of this industry have. I'm sure you are specifically referring to their search algorithms, which are secret anyways...which actually makes we wonder if those are even patented because then they would have to be public, which, again, I'm assuming, I would be almost positive that they are not.

they are in the public and patented

elcapo24682 says:

don't know what happened to my other comments but I'll repost. more fuel for my disgust towards Google.

Averry says:

Regardless, this is pretty damn whiny take by Google. Anyone following the mobile lawsuit situation knows that patents are used if anything as a insurance policy.This is nothing new. IBMD did this to companies for years, and Microsoft's been burned by patents in the past as well. These companies are simply doing what is absolutely necessary to be competitive in this screwed up situation the US patent system has created. Again, this behavior is nothing new, especially not in the tech industry. For Google to seem surprised by this at all just reeks of foolishness I'm sure that they are merely trying to drum up sympathy, or they are simply frustrated.

Jay Bennett says:

Well this story has kicked up quite a debate...I'm torn here personally, it's difficult to support the view that Google put forward that this system is "strangling innovation" when a fair few of the legal battles against Android at the moment are based around the prospective that Android uses a lot of borrowed/lifted code and ideas to create the open experience they are so proud of.That being said, I completely agree that the situation of new patents being purchased by a group consisting of competing companies is wrong. When you have patents being so fiercely fought over it does start to suggest that they will be used offensively rather than as a way to protect someone's original idea.Of course Google could have tried to join the "Rockstar" and "CPTN" group or understood that they have to take the legal system in their operating country seriously, rather than making such confounding bids

Averry says:

Apple and Microsoft never sue each other because it would basically be the equivalent to a nuclear war between the USSR and the United States. It's mutually assured destruction. In some cases it's quite often used as defensive measures.

nihouma says:

I remember back in the WM days, when this site had such a different perspective. Things were much more "Well, Android is doing good/bad, lets hope Microsoft learns from that!" or "Apple really messed up on that one, but don't forget if it weren't for them, the smartphone industry wouldn't be where it was!"Now anything a competitor does is bad and a threat, and the articles here represent this. Makes me miss my HTC Fuze :/

I think you may have selective memory as I've been one of the main writers on this site since 2007.Usually we're middle of the road on this site, but we're human, we have opinions and we like to state them. That's what the editorial label is for and we will exercise it on occasion. Whether you agree or not is a different matter and that's why we have comments.However, if you have nothing constructive to add to the conversation outside of saying "this site is not as good as it used to be" well then, we can't help you there.

nihouma says:

I never said that the site isn't as good as it used to be(although I kind of did imply it), I do still enjoy reading the articles here. It just throws a person off when the style of a writer goes from the usual to another side. It isn't necessarily bad, but until you get used to it, you're left with a weird taste in your mouth. All in all, since WMExperts became WPCentral, I've enjoyed the direction of this site.

dan comes off as being very bitter, due to the spanking android and apple are giving the rest of the mobile market.

Way to attack the author and not the content. Keep it classy Joe!

A hostile, organized campaign... well I should certainly hope so. Apple and Microsoft would be fools not to. What does anyone think Google was going to do if they got their hands on the patents? I don't know why everyone hates the companies for a what they like to label a broken patent system. This is the environment these companies are forced to play in and if they drop the ball then it will come back to bite them. That's exactly what happened to Google. They underestimated the value of the patents and are now pouting that the big bullies are ganging up on them. The last I checked Schmidt said that Microsoft wasn't one of the companies driving innovation and growing astronomically, so how did they get outmaneuvered by a boring, middle-aged company? And even then there are many to jumped to Google's defense implying that now that the big bad Microsoft giant has a stake in the patents, they will be used for evil and the utter destruction of the earth whereas if Google could have gotten it, they would have been used for peace, justice, and all that is noble and honorable. I for one enjoy coming to one of only a few sites that actually portray Microsoft and its properties in a positive light and feel free to take a jab at the competition on occasion. This is a fan site by the way. At least they are not purporting to be unbiased "reporters", (and I use that term in the loosest meaning), a la Engadget, CNET, and Mashable. So Google, how about a little less crying and a little more apps for my Galaxy Tab 10.1?!

Los says:

sounds like google needs a hug. Quick, someone get them a tissue! LOL

azimutha says:

http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/09/vesper/ humorously describes how Apple bankrolled the consortium that bought out Nortel's 6000+ patents. And now they're putting the screws to Samsung, HTC, et al, to destroy Android. While Windows Phone 7 has limped along for lack of an ecosystem, what many have overlooked (myself included) is that Microsoft has all along been quite careful to create an OS that is virtually free of any litigation risk. While some bloggers have talked about carriers wanting another OS to avoid lock-in (something I've seen absolutely zero evidence to support) it is the device manufacturers who will be weighing whether it's better to pay $15 in patent royalties for an OS with dubious legality or just to pay the same for one that is (I can't resist this phrase) backed by the full faith and credit of Microsoft.

interesting point. I would have to agree that Apple and Microsoft want google to lose. The question is who does it benefit the most? I think the chicken dinner goes to Apple at the end