Google Exec Slams ‘Bogus’ Apple And Microsoft Patents

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A Google executive has lambasted Apple, Microsoft and Oracle for allegedly plotting against Android

The man in charge of Google’s legal affairs has hit out at Apple, Microsoft and others, accusing them of colluding in order to hamper the increasingly popular Android operating system.

The extraordinary outburst from the Google executive is even more noteworthy considering it comes from David Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer

Drummond used a blog posting on the official Google blog to vent about about rivals using patents in order to attack Android. He started by asking why Microsoft and Apple, who have traditionally been hostile towards each other, were now getting “into bed together”.

Hostile Campaign

Drummond put this down to the incredible success of Android in the smartphone sector, and said that Google was now seeing 550,000 Android devices activated every day, through a network of 39 manufacturers and 231 carriers.

“But Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organised campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents,” Drummond wrote.

Google of course is still smarting from being comprehensively outbid for a set of valuable Nortel patents by a consortium that includes Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle. Google had orginally bid $900 million (£560m) in cash for the patents back in April, but in the end the consortium paid $4.5bn (£2.7bn) for the 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,” wrote Drummond.

He also accused Google’s rivals of seeking $15 (£9.14) licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android than Windows Phone 7; and even suing  Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung.

Stifling Innovation?

“Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it,” he wrote.

Drummond accused Apple, Microsoft and Oracle of wanting to impose a “tax for these dubious patents that makes Android devices more expensive for consumers. They want to make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices. Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation,” he wrote.

“This anti-competitive strategy is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they’re really worth. The winning $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion,” wrote Drummond. “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.”

Federal Probe

The Department of Justice has just announced a probe into whether a stack of former Nortel Networks patents will be used to attack Google’s Android.

“We’re not naive; technology is a tough and ever-changing industry and we work very hard to stay focused on our own business and make better products,” wrote Drummond. “But in this instance we thought it was important to speak out and make it clear that we’re determined to preserve Android as a competitive choice for consumers, by stopping those who are trying to strangle it.”

This is in reference to Microsoft, which has recently managed to convinced several manufacturers to pay it royalties on their Android-based devices. It is also locked in battle with Motorola and Barnes & Noble, claiming that they are violating its intellectual-property by using Android on their mobile devices.

Meanwhile, Apple is also embroiled in lawsuits with HTC, Samsung and Motorola over the use of Android technology.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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