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:
- Nortel's patent were old, outdated and not worth the money for Google
- 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