Google has finally voiced their “official” opinion about the ongoing patent suits that are targeting Android, directly or indirectly. We had earlier seen comments on this from Google officials, but this is the first time that they have come out in the open and written a blog post on the Official Google Blog devoted exclusively to the ongoing slugfest.
The post titled “When Patents Attack Android” is written by David Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer who claims that companies like Microsoft, Apple and Oracle are trying to cripple the Android ecosystem by what he calls “getting into bed with each other”. He goes on to raise a stink about how over valued these patents have become citing the example of Nortel’s patent portfolio which was sold at $4.5 billion, nearly five times its estimated value. He also echoed Schmidt’s statement, which accused Google’s rivals of taking the route of patent litigation rather than innovation to fight competition. An excerpt from the post states:
“A smartphone might involve as many as 250,000 (largely questionable) patent claims, and our competitors want 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.”
He has also accused Apple and Microsoft are seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; in an attempt to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android, which it gives it for free.
It indicates how vulnerable Google is on the patent front presently. They were caught off-guard when these patent wars started to erupt and now that they realise the seriousness of the situation, it might very well be too late for them. InterDigital’s 8,800 patents are up for grabs and Apple and Google are actively trying to acquire this patent stash.
Apple is in a very strong position in terms of cash, and Google would definitely have to get in bed with one or more of its competitors to keep Apple from acquiring these patents. So unless it chooses to take a high moral ground (to protest against the present patent system) and not bid for the patents at all, it would have to do exactly what Drummord condems in the post, team up to keep others away. Hypocrisy right?
Moreover it wasn’t like Google was never invited to be a part of the winning group of Novell’s patents at all. Two Microsoft execs revealed on Twitter that Google themselves declined an invitation to bid jointly with Microsoft for Novell’s patents.
Attached with one of those tweets was an email from Google’s SVP Kent Walker to Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith, which read:
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.
For what reasons Google denied the invitation isn’t known, but this coupled the Nortel patent loss cost Google a lot, which left them with no option but to seek public support, through the blog.
Interestingly, Google has remained silent on the parallel patent wars going on between developers and firms like Lodsys and Kotool. This is in contrast to what is going on at the Apple front, where Apple has taken a firm stance against these patent trolls and backed their developers.
So it seems Google believes in voicing their opinions and taking a stance only when they are directly under threat, rather than actually giving support to these developers whose efforts are in fact what has Google has piggy backed on since long to promote Android.
The most important thing to take away from the post – Google is publicly acknowledging that Android’s existence is in jeopardy if the patent scene doesn’t change.
What do you think? Please share your views in the comment section below.