Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond kicked up a storm of controversy yesterday with a blog post where he lambasted companies like Microsoft and Apple for attacking Android via the courtroom as opposed to focusing on innovation.
The entire thing is boldly hypocritical, but especially when he accuses Microsoft and Apple of colluding together to acquire patent portfolios as a means to attack Google.
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.
So Microsoft conspired, along with others, to keep the Novell patents out of Google’s hands? That’s funny, because Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith begs to differ.
Responding to Drummond’s claims, Smith tweeted: “Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”
Oh Snap, playa!
But wait, there’s more. A whole lot more.
Microsoft Head of Communications Frank X. Shaw teases out Smith’s tweet with a tweet of his own, “Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog. :)”
And attached to that tweet was a photo of an email Google General Counsel Kent Walker had sent to Smith declining Microsoft’s offer to join them on a bid for Novell’s patents.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you — I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we’re open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.
I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
If anyone looks conspiratorial here, it’s Google. Drummond’s entire blogpost now seems drenched in projection and perhaps provides a window into Google’s own motives.
Most of Google’s thin patent portfolio relates to search, and with upwards of 50 Android related lawsuits currently in play, Google is simply out of its league and is attempting to play catchup by purchasing patents as fast and furious as they can. Why else would they bid upwards of $3.4 billion for Nortel’s patents? Why else did they just buy over 1,000 patents from IBM?
So why in the world would they chastise other companies from trying to shore up their own patent portfolios? In short, they’re salty because they’ve lost out on two big patent auctions.
And remember that for as much as Google publicly derides the US patent system and laments the stifling of innovation, the reality is that the success of Android was in part built upon the patented technology of others.
Google might like to portray themselves as the victim in a patent game where Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle are greedily looking to shakedown Android, but don’t forget that Google has its own agenda here – giving away its patent infringing Android OS for free as to reap the monetary rewards of mobile search.