There’s a bona fide soap opera drama going on between Microsoft and Google at the moment and we can’t get enough.
Here’s a brief recap.
This past week, Google’s top lawyer David Drummond lambasted the patent system on the whole and accused companies like Microsoft and Apple of conspiring together to keep “bogus” patents out of the hands of Google.
“They’re doing this,” Drummond wrote, “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.”
There was only one problem – Drummond didn’t have his facts straight.
In the wake of Drummond’s blogpost, Microsoft’s Frank X. Shaw fired back a photo of an email wherein Microsoft offered Google an opportunity to join in on the bidding for Novell’s patent portfolio.
So much for Microsoft’s greedy efforts to keep patents outside the clutches of Google.
But Drummond wasn’t done, and updated his blogpost claiming that Microsoft was diverting attention away from the real issue.
If you think about it, it’s obvious why we turned down Microsoft’s offer. Microsoft’s objective has been to keep from Google and Android device-makers any patents that might be used to defend against their attacks. A joint acquisition of the Novell patents that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners. Making sure that we would be unable to assert these patents to defend Android — and having us pay for the privilege — must have seemed like an ingenious strategy to them. We didn’t fall for it.
Translation: If Google jointly owned the patents with Microsoft, Google would have been unable to prevent Microsoft from going after handset manufacturers like HTC and Motorola who use Android.
But here’s the thing – If Android wasn’t riddled with infringing patent technologies, Google would have nothing to worry about, nothing to defend against. The fact remains that Google is a search company that recently got into the smartphone business. As such, the majority of their patents pertain to search and they have a popular mobile OS out there that, by all accounts, makes liberal use of the intellectual property of others.
Google argues that companies like Microsoft and Apple are accumulating patents to go after Android. That’s some nice corporate spin, but one could just as easily argue, much more cogently, that Google is aggressively looking to beef up its patent portfolio precisely because it knows Android employs patented technologies; because it knows it’s infringing.