Google lawyer slams Apple, Microsoft over patents

Aug 04, 2011 by Chris Lefkow
Google is currently being sued by software giant Oracle over technology used in its Android smartphone operating system.
The Android logo is displayed during a press event at Google headquarters. Google is currently being sued by software giant Oracle over technology used in its Android smartphone operating system.

Google's top lawyer accused Apple, Oracle, Microsoft and other companies of using "bogus patents" to wage a campaign against the Internet giant's Android mobile platform.

In a blog post, Google senior vice president and chief legal officer David Drummond said Google's rivals were seeking to "make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices."

"Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation," Drummond said.

He said 550,000 Android devices were being activated every day and its success has resulted in a "hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, and other companies, waged through bogus ."

Drummond pointed to last year's $450 million acquisition of 882 patents from Novell by a consortium made up Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle and the more recent purchase by a group led by Apple and Microsoft of 6,000 patents held by bankrupt Canadian firm Nortel.

Google was a bidder for the Nortel patent portfolio but it lost out to a $4.5 billion bid from the consortium made up of maker Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Blackberry maker and Japan's Sony.

The huge sum spent on the patents and the involvement of many of the world's top tech companies reflected the fierce battle for intellectual property in the tech industry, where firms are often hit with patent-infringement lawsuits.

Google is currently being sued by software giant Oracle over technology used in its Android smartphone operating system.

Drummond said Google's rivals were "banding together" and were seeking a $15 licensing fee for every Android device.

He said they were also "attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android," which Google provides for free to handset makers.

"Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it," Drummond said.

"A smartphone might involve as many as 250,000 (largely questionable) patent claims, and our competitors want to impose a 'tax' for these dubious patents that makes Android devices more expensive for consumers.

"Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anti-competitive means -- which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop," he continued.

Drummond said Google was encouraged that the US Justice Department is looking into whether Microsoft and Apple acquired the Nortel patents for "anti-competitive means."

"We're also looking at other ways to reduce the anti-competitive threats against Android by strengthening our own patent portfolio," he said. "We're determined to preserve as a competitive choice for consumers, by stopping those who are trying to strangle it."

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith responded to the Google accusations with a message on his Twitter feed.

"Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from . Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no," Smith said.

Apple or Oracle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Temple
not rated yet Aug 04, 2011
This is the absolute height of hypocrisy.

See Microsoft's response on this issue. Google was *invited* to join in the consortium to buy the patents. The industry decided to band together and *share* the patents in order to keep them out of the hands of patent trolls and to allow industry growth.

Google didn't want to join the group and get equal access to the Nortel patents, instead they tried very hard to win the patents just for their exclusive use. Google bid *way* more than any single business in the consortium did (over $3B, compared to the combined $4.5B), way more than they would have had to pay had they accepted the offer to make a joint bid for equal access.

I'm sorry Google is not getting a pass from me on this one. They made a huge mistake, they got greedy and failed. Now they are trying to cast themselves as the victim here. Absolute hypocrisy.
jamesrm
not rated yet Aug 04, 2011
You believe M$oft (make money from their products?), and what were the details of the supposed joint venture?
mattytheory
not rated yet Aug 05, 2011
I agree with jamesrm... you don't know the details of the supposed joint venture offer that Microsoft *says* they extended to Google. The offer could have been "Hey Google come bid on this stuff with us so we can all share the technology for cheap" as easy as it could have been "You better bid with us because we'll make sure you lose if you don't".

The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle. Hard to tell though where the middle is...
Temple
not rated yet Aug 05, 2011
The coalition of buyers was made up of Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Sony Ericson, and EMC. Those are pretty strong competitors in the space. They said that they are all going to share in the patents (details have yet to emerge), but I think it would be folly to suspect that any one of them would have entered into a deal with their competitors that gave any one of them the advantage.

They said that they invited Google to join in and share. Google rejected the offer to cooperate and tried to take them all for itself. Google bid over $3B, the largest individual contribution was from Apple at $2.6B.

Because there was no cooperation, there was a bidding war, had Google been willing to share when invited to, the total price would have been far lower than the $4.5B, and Google's cost to share in all the patents would have been far, far lower than the $3B they bid for exclusive use.

Google was the patent troll in this case. Now they are crying victim. It's a bit shameful.
Gena777
not rated yet Aug 09, 2011
I must admit that I've been stymied by Drummond's complaints claiming that Microsoft et al are trying to take down Android. OF COURSE THEY ARE. It seems such an obvious, and typical, business tactic that I'm surprised Drummond even mentioned it. The reality is that, if you have a hit, high-quality product, your competitors will try as hard as they can to put you out of commission. The fact that Google's leadership is publicly complaining about such common business tactics makes me wonder whether the company's leaders are experienced and savvy enough to adequately weather the storm of cutthroat, high-stakes business and come out on top in the long run. If I were a Google investor, such comments (as well as Google's recent fumbling of its Nortel patent bid) might make me think twice about the long-term viability of an investment in the company.
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