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Google Accuses Competitors of Abusing Patents Against Android 294

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the the-plot-thickens dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Bloomberg reports that Google has accused Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle of waging a 'hostile, organized campaign' against Android by purchasing patents to keep them out of Google's hands and to make it more expensive for handset makers to use Android. '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,' writes David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer. Android's success has resulted in a 'hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.'" Microsoft has responded, saying they offered to bid jointly with Google on the Nortel patents, but Google refused. Some think Google is being hypocritical with their stance on patents changing now that Android appears to infringe on a bunch.
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Google Accuses Competitors of Abusing Patents Against Android

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  • Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zget (2395308) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:48AM (#36984376)
    So Microsoft, Apple and Oracle wanted Google to join them and jointly bid with them, allowing access to the patents for everyone. Google didn't join, and lost the bidding when they tried to get it all for themselves. Who is the real hostile company here?
  • Here's a tissue. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MachineShedFred (621896) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:53AM (#36984422) Journal

    It was an auction, and you got outbid. If Nortel wasn't a dying (dead) company, you would have still had to license / work around any of these patents, so what's the difference?

  • by Trepidity (597) <(gro.hsikcah) (ta) (todhsals-muiriled)> on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:55AM (#36984440)

    I appreciate the need to spice things up with novel plotlines, but in this kind of scenario you really want clear sides, so that spectators can rally around their favorite team. It's okay if it's subject, so some people pick the "Apple good!" side and others then "Google good!" side. But you've still got to keep the lines reasonable or it's not really conductive to building a fanbase.

    Also, someone should print up some shirts that read, "No war but the patent war!"

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:57AM (#36984462)

    Microsoft has responded, saying they offered to bid jointly with Google on the Nortel patents, but Google refused.

    Hey Microsoft, could you please throw some light as to how Google's joint purchase of these patents with you would help Google fend off patent lawsuits from the likes of yourself, Apple and the rest?

    Google wanted these patents for defensive purposes [blogspot.com]. Therefore Google's teaming up with folks like Apple and Microsoft, who would like to see Android fail would be plain stupid in my opinion.

  • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:08AM (#36984592) Journal

    Well, they can take their principled stance and use pi * $1B on lobbyists to get Congress to actually reform the patent system. Thanks to that wonderful supreme court decision that allows corporations to spend just as much money as they want on political free speech, Google could put it out there that any congress critter that is serious about reforming the USPTO gets $10M in the war chest in the form of 509(c) sponsored direct mail flyers, online advertisement, television advertisement, etc.

    218 seats in the US house = $2.18B
    60 seats in the US Senate = $600M (gotta get that cloture motion, after all)

    We're not even to pi * $1B yet...

  • Not hypocritical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:18AM (#36984720) Homepage Journal

    I fail to see any hypocrisy and I re-read Gruber's blog post multiple times trying to follow his twisty logic.

    It appears to me that Google, like many, many software engineers in the US but unlike many software companies in the US, doesn't see patents as particularly useful or valuable to the industry. Google seems to think that software patents inhibit innovation, not help it, and wishes that software patents didn't exist.

    Does that mean that Google shouldn't buy patents or apply for patents? Of course not, because software patents do exist and it's suicide for a big software company to try to get along without them.

    See, everyone who has been paying attention understands that 99.9% of software patents are utter crap. They don't represent real innovation, because they're simply obvious to anyone who happens to be working on the relevant problem. But actually going through the process of invalidating them, either by identifying the prior art or finding some way to demonstrate that they're obvious, is horribly time-consuming and expensive. And it's ultimately almost pointless because there are so many more patents out there which can be asserted once you've knocked down the first batch.

    No, the way you defend yourself against bogus patent claims (or even the occasional arguably-valid claim) is by having plenty of patents so that you can countersue with a whole bunch of your own bogus patent claims. Then you and your attacker can negotiate a cross-licensing agreement. In practice, once you've got a sufficiently large pile of patents a form of detente sets in, where you and your commercial competitors don't bother to sue one another over patents because there's no point. No one would win but the lawyers anyway, and everyone knows it.

    Google was perhaps a little slow to understand this patent landscape. More accurately, most of what Google did for years was harder to attack with patents so it wasn't so relevant and so Google didn't really bother. But Google is in the thick of it now, and fully understands the nature of the situation.

    So, I don't see any hypocrisy. I think Google thinks software patents suck and should go away, but given that they're here Google is forced to play the game. But Google doesn't like the game, sees it as dirty pool and has decided to at least call its opponents on their dirty (if lamentably legal) tactics.

    (Disclaimer: I'm a Google software engineer, but haven't been one for long and don't know anything about Google's patent strategy other than what I read in the press.)

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:21AM (#36984740)

    because if they owned the damn things they can't be sued for violating them.

    Surely that is simply fucking obvious.

  • Bogus Patents ?? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CSHARP123 (904951) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:23AM (#36984776)
    Android's success has resulted in a 'hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.'"

    Patents are granted to these companies. When did it become bogus? If Google thinks this is bogus. They need to fight and get the patents invalidated. It is not as if Google is a small company and cannot fight. Google may have purposefully violated patents from other companies and hence they do not protect the OEMs who are implementing Android. If Google thinks these are bogus then fight and make sure these patents are invalidated.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:33AM (#36984860) Homepage

    The computer and software industry has been about rapid development and improvement. The 80s saw amazing development and growth. There were accusations of copying and all that, but the reality is that everyone copies everyone and always have. It's how we define progress. Forgetting that software is just path for a moment and let's just think of it in terms of development of a "thing."

    The industry has grown from nearly nothing (by comparison) to the single most dominating thing which has transformed the way the world does business, recreation and correspondence in less time than it takes for a patent to expire! In fact, many "technologies" have come and gone in that time.

    The fact is, "software" is a ware that has no cost of raw materials to manufacture. It's just bits and copying them costs nothing aside from the memory and storage devices used to contain them. Development only has the design phases and testing phases without the costs of prototyping and materials selection that you would see in a physical product. What I am saying is that software is a very fluid and rich environment and the translation from idea to product is very rapid. This makes patents unnecessary as an incentive to develop and build new things -- the need to do so is a matter of survival in this industry. And, of course, now we are seeing that patents on software is having the effect of stifling development and innovation as ideas can be patented without any cost involved with developing the idea at all.

    I know... more preaching to the choir here on slashdot so it's nearly useless. But on the off chance some senator or congressman or someone associated with them can find this on a search, then maybe it's good to write about it.

    Software patents are actually slowing down the US software industry. As golliaths sit on their massive pile of patents, they are increasingly using them to squash competition rather than developing new and innovative things as they should be. And since the rest of the world doesn't care about software patents, they are more free to continue their rapid development of technologies meaning the US is slowly being left behind.

    The current approach is to keep things as they are and to "defend them" politically and eventually physically. That approach is leaving the US with fewer and fewer friends...

  • by NatasRevol (731260) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:38AM (#36984918) Journal

    So explain why it's ok that Google was willing to pay $3B to buy the patents alone and protect themselves, but not willing to go in with all the other major mobile OS mfgrs to assure mutual protection.

    Because that's really the point where people are telling Google to shut their whiny pie-holes.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:44AM (#36984976)

    Aquiring these patents with Apple, M$ and the like would not prevent Google from being sued for 'infringing' on *other* patents by these very companies, (emphasis mine). Owning these patents exclusively would potentially deter any company from suing. What's so hard to understand about this?

  • by MooseMuffin (799896) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:47AM (#36985000)
    Like the GP said, the point of owning patents in this industry is to represent the threat of a countersuit to prevent your competitors from suing you in the first place. That doesn't work in this scenario because you can't countersue Microsoft and Apple if the only patents you own are jointly owned by them too.
  • This is stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:48AM (#36985020) Journal

    If there is a time when the government should step in this is it. This whole patent war crap is not only anti-competitive for the companies involved, but it also kills off any chance of new companies innovating in the market. It's becomes a monopoly by patent portfolio enforcement.

    It's anti-competitive and should be squashed.

  • Re:Seriously (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Locutus (9039) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @10:05AM (#36985924)
    Google already knows and is being attacked by patents already held by those companies and wanted the Nortel patents as protection against these thugs, joining them does the same thing as losing the bid. oh, but it costs them no money.

    Microsoft's public statement about asking Google to join them was 100% PR. Remember, Microsoft had been caught assigning no less than 12 employees to one guy writing an article on a Microsoft product and even handed out coaching instructions analysed by psychologists to direct the author to write the article they way they wanted it. Not to mention that the magazine editor was hounded by a Microsoft employee to get the article written in the first place. Talk about The Wizard of Oz syndrome, Microsoft is a PR firm first and foremost.

    LoB
  • by bonch (38532) * on Thursday August 04, 2011 @12:04PM (#36987578)

    Google is a very hostile company, but people are so used to viewing them as the benevolent Linux-using company that they don't see it. Google's hostility comes from their use of search monopoly profits to prop up their products in other markets and destroy other businesses. Once upon a time, Microsoft was regularly trashed on Slashdot for using monopoly profits to destroy other businesses--the biggest sin being giving away Internet Explorer for free to dismantle companies that had no choice but to charge for their browsers. This is exactly what Google does with Android and with any of the services it prominently displays at the top of its search results page. Remember that Google once responded to antitrust concerns by stating that its search results page was entirely algorithmically objective, but that has since been disproved [businessinsider.com]--certain hard-coded search terms will display Google's services at the top of the results page, above more popular services.

    Google's biggest problem is that they started out with a perception of being the good guys based on an irreverent self-awareness ("Don't be evil"), which has let to an inaccurate sense of self, just like when Microsoft started out believing they were the upstarts overthrowing IBM. Google thinks that it's not a big deal if they withhold Android source or snoop data from neighborhood wifi networks or use monopoly profits to buyout or drive away competitors in other markets. They think they're still some kind of friendly engineers' playground with a sense of humor. It's as if they're not aware that they're a for-profit megacorp whose business relies on selling people's personal data and that their poor behavior has major consequences. They seem to believe that by talking about openness all the time, it somehow negates hypocrisies like bundling of Flash in Chrome or signing non-neutral Internet deals with phone carriers just to prop up Android.

    Google still has the support of many techies, and they maintain that appeal by pretending to be an open source company. But if Google is all about open source, where is the source code for their core business, the search engine and advertising platform? Where are the algorithms for users to poke at? Google's data-indexing is as closed source and proprietary as Windows. If open source is about providing freedom for users to obtain the source of the software they use daily, where is the outcry over the fact that Google has taken over most of the internet with a closed-source product?

    It seems like the last couple of years have really exposed a bad upper-management element within the company. Google is trying to destroy or buy out as many competitors in as many markets as it can, just like Microsoft did when they had a monopoly, and just like practically every other company does when they have a monopoly. The monopoly profits are used to flood new markets with low-priced or free products, often bundled, that existing competitors are incapable of competing with because they must charge for their products. Again, Microsoft received so much shit for that behavior, year after year, and it seems that few have noticed that Google is doing the exact same thing. It doesn't matter if their product is based on Linux. That doesn't make it right. If you respond by saying that competitors should just come up with a better product in order to compete, that's exactly what Microsoft and its supporters said in the days of their antitrust investigation.

    What happened to the Google that just had a cool search engine? Why is it taking advantage of search monopoly profits to either buy out or crush every competitor in every non-core market? Why do they talk about openness when their core business is based on a search and advertising engine that is not open source?

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