Google and Microsoft are patently at odds over Android’s intellectual properties – but who’s coming off best, asks Nicholas Kolakowski
The simmering rivalry between the two tech giants exploded this week, with executives trading barbs on Twitter and blog posts over patents related to mobile technology.
This latest burst of aggression has its roots in a high-stakes auction that took place earlier this year. Microsoft and a handful of other companies submitted a $4.5 billion (£2.7bn) winning bid for some 6,000 patents and patent applications formerly owned by Nortel. Google wanted the same property, but its own bid of $900 million (£548m) couldn’t quite seal the deal.
Trolling fleet includes Apple
Now Google seems concerned that Microsoft and its consortium partners (which include Apple, not exactly the search-engine giant’s bosom buddy) will use those patents to sue Android manufacturers into the ground. Indeed, Microsoft is rapidly making an industry out of what it claims are Android’s violations of its intellectual property: in addition to squeezing royalties from any number of Android-device manufacturers, the company has filed patent-infringement suits against Motorola (maker of Android-based smartphones and tablets) and Barnes & Noble (which produces the Nook, an Android-based e-reader).
“Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together, you have to start wondering what’s going on,” David Drummond, Google’s senior vice president and chief legal officer, wrote in a 3 August posting on The Official Google Blog. “Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anticompetitive means – which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop.”
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