David Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, wrote on Google’s official blog today that companies like Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple are fighting against Android because they prefer litigation to innovation and are attempting to throttle Android’s growth.
Android is on fire. More than 550,000 Android devices are activated every day, through a network of 39 manufacturers and 231 carriers. Android and other platforms are competing hard against each other, and that’s yielding cool new devices and amazing mobile apps for consumers.
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.
Isn’t it possible that Android’s success is what it is precisely because Android has treated valid and strong patents as bogus?
Drummond further argues that companies are banding together to purchase patent portfolios to stop others from innovating.
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.
What a load of BS. Wasn’t Google itself bidding upwards of $2 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio? Didn’t Google just purchase over 1,000 patents from IBM?
What’s really at work here is that Google hates the patent system when it’s being used to attack their own products, but try and see what happens if you use Google’s patented search technology in a new product or service.
Further, companies like Microsoft, Oracle, and Apple already have patent portfolios that range in the tens of thousands. They hardly need more patents with which to battle Android. The aforementioned patent purchases are surely, in part, defensive in nature and forward looking to the extent that they cover technologies yet to be implemented.
This anti-competitive strategy is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they’re really worth. Microsoft and Apple’s winning $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion. 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.
Wow, Google sure is salty about losing out on Nortel’s patent portfolio. Besides, why does Google care how much people are paying for patents. It’s certainly in a position to afford expensive patent portfolios. It just happened to come up short with Nortel’s and now it seems that Google employees are bitching about it on a weekly basis.
Further, it’s entirely speculative for Drummond to state that the purchased patent portfolios will be used for anti-competitive purposes. And it’s not as if Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle are NPE who don’t implement their patents into shipping products. If anything, these patent purchases were made so that these companies can be more competitive. These purchases were made so that these companies can continue to innovate without the fear of patent litigation slowing them down.
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. 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.
We’re looking intensely at a number of ways to do that. We’re encouraged that the Department of Justice forced the group I mentioned earlier to license the former Novell patents on fair terms, and that it’s 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. Unless we act, consumers could face rising costs for Android devices — and fewer choices for their next phone.
Essentially, Google views any threat as anti-competitive.
How delightfully convenient.