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Google: Apple, Microsoft Waging War on Android

Google's Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond is accusing Apple, Microsoft, Oracle and other companies of waging a unified war against Android. How? By working together and purchasing patents left and right in order to keep Google from getting patents "that would help balance the scales."

Put it this way: the more patents Microsoft, Oracle and even Apple purchase, the riskier it will become to use the Android OS. As Drummond points out in his blog on Wednesday, a single smartphone may involve nearly 250,000 patent claims. Now imagine Android's competitors owning a good number of those patents, enforcing a costly "tax" on each so that manufacturers deem it too costly and end up purchasing Windows Phone 7 or some other OS instead of Google's free, open-source mobile platform.

"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," he writes. "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 Phone 7; 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."

The whole situation is apparently driving the cost of patents "way beyond what they're worth." Drummond reports that the winning $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion. But he expects the patent hoarding to draw regulatory scrutiny and perhaps be seen as anti-competitive in nature.

"This patent bubble will pop," he said. "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."

So how's a search engine to defend itself against deep-pocketed corporations like Apple and Microsoft? By strengthening its own patent portfolio before they're all scooped up. "We’re [also] 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," he added.

Later Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith denied the allegations in regards to Novell's patent portfolio, saying that the company asked Google to participate in the bid. "Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google," Smith said in a message on Twitter. "Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”

Naturally Drummond responded.

"It's not surprising that Microsoft would want to divert attention by pushing a false "gotcha!" while failing to address the substance of the issues we raised," he said. "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. "

So far Apple, Microsoft and Oracle have declined to comment.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • DjEaZy
    Google: Apple, Microsoft Waging War on Android? Not on android... on Google...
  • scuba dave
    And how exactly would "jointly" purchasing those patents have "not" helped protect Android from lawsuits? Joint owner is still "owner", and therefore still covered by the patent, "protection" wise and all...
  • CaedenV
    This just in: Companies that cannot compete do not survive. That's right, this is earth shattering news. Of course companies like oracle, microsoft, and Apple are ganging up on google... it would have NOTHING to do with the fact that they each have their own flawed OSs that require patents to improve. With the fevered pitch of OS development in the mobile sector it just makes patents that much harder to come by. So if Android cannot compete in the game of patents then maybe it is time for them to get to work on the innovation front, which I always thought they were pretty good at before, but with whining like this I am having my doubts.
  • nekatreven
    scuba daveAnd how exactly would "jointly" purchasing those patents have "not" helped protect Android from lawsuits? Joint owner is still "owner", and therefore still covered by the patent, "protection" wise and all...
    I don't really understand that part either. Microsoft could still attack them with other patents that they had but Google lacked, but it seems like if they had tried to attack them under one of the joint-licensed patents wouldn't Google's response just be "Uhm, yea, we have that patent too."
  • cjmcgee
    This comes across like a temper tantrum because someone took the toy they wanted. It's called competition. I know Google is not used to it with their virtual monopoly in search engine space, but your competition is always going to be trying to take you down. The idea with patents is to get a mexican standoff going; if you all hold enough patents then you can hold each other at bay. All parties knew these patents were dangerous and went after them for their own safety. If Google doesn't play and get enough patents of their own, then they will be the one bringing a pocket protector to a gun fight.
  • @scuba dave

    Google purpose for the patent was to protect them from future law suits, a joint patent would not provide a defense from a MS or Apple because they jointly hold the patent, basically Google will use these patents to defends against other patent (force a cross licensing agreement)
  • Clash of the Titans, nice!
  • 2ms
    Like the richest company in the world is weeping that they got outbid by competitors in an auction that they had themselves put up bid for nearly as much for? And then they want to make up the difference by crying in the press and begging for some kind of sympathy?

    And I wonder what they'd be saying if they'd placed the highest bid and role reversed with MS, Oracle, Apple group :D

    All I have to say is that if you're going to build an entire operating system off another company's software (Oracle) and try to make billions off it, then freakin' pay for the damn license and be prepared for bidding wars on other related ones. Always been bewildered by use of Java in first place. not only for this exact reason but also for the fundamental performance disadvantages.
  • saxplayingcompnerd
    The legal system for software is broken, you can always do the same thing 50 ways with 50 different ways of coding it to serve the same function. The patent system should only be applied for PHYSICAL objects, no programming. Just like you cant patent life because it is ever changing, you should not be allowed to patent computer code because it is ever evolving.
  • shanky887614
    lol i find this funny, there doing this because apple and microsoft both aggree there os's are ****

    instead of making there os's better there trying to stop manufacterers installing andriod instead