Print 40 comment(s) - last by Tony Swash.. on Aug 7 at 7:36 PM

David Drummond, Google’s senior VP and chief legal officer, seen here on the right.  (Source: Reblogging Donk)

Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs   (Source: Microsoft)

Frank Shaw, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Corporate Communications   (Source: Microsoft)

Email exchange between Brad Smith and Kent Walker  (Source: @fxshaw)
Google is taking fire from all sides when it comes to its Android operating system

I. Android Rises, Competitors Look to Cash In

When it comes to its prized Android operating system, Google is being attacked from all sides. According to the latest market share numbers from Canalys, Google's worldwide market share with Android-based smartphones is just under 50 percent. Likewise, for every two iPhones that are sold, five smartphones running Android are sold.

With Android already taking over in the smartphone sector, and preparing for a surge in tablets, Apple is looking to cut Android device makers off at the knees with lawsuits claiming patent infringement [1][2][3][4][5]. 

Microsoft is looking to get in on a piece of the action as well. It is already collecting a reported $5 for each Android-based HTC device sold as a result of a patent settlement. Microsoft is also looking to collect as much as $15 per handset from Samsung (Samsung is reportedly willing to settle for around $10 per handset). 

Throw in ongoing litigation with Oracle over Android patent violations, and Google just can't seem to catch a break. 

II. Google Cries Foul

Apparently, Google has had enough of its mobile operating system -- and its partners -- being attacked by competitors. David Drummond, Google's Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, took to the company's official blog and had more than a few words for Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle regarding their "bogus" patent claims. Drummond claims that the trio has sparked a "hostile, organized campaign" against Android and that their claims of patent violations are baseless.

Drummond even went so far as to dismiss Apple and Microsoft's buddy-buddy relationship which led to the purchase of Novell's war chest of patents. "I have worked in the tech sector for over two decades," opined Drummond. "Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what's going on." 

Apple, Microsoft, and four other tech giants purchased Nortel's patent portfolio for a whopping $4.5B, far surpassing Google's initial bid of $900M and final bid of over $3.14B. "The winning $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion," Drummond continued. "Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anti-competitive means — which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop."

Drummond goes on to talk about how everyone is ganging up on Google, and that such actions simply aren't acceptable in the marketplace:

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. Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation…

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.

III. Microsoft Responds

Since Drummond called out Microsoft in the official Google blog, it shouldn't be too surprising that at least someone from Redmond was taking notice. Brad Smith, Microsoft's General Counsel, posted to his Twitter feed that Microsoft actually was looking to give Google a piece of the action with the Nortel patent purchase:

Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.

Frank Shaw, head of Microsoft's Corporate Communications department, even got in on the Twitter-bang action according to Engadget:

Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog. :)

Shaw posted an image of an email exchange (see image on right) between Brad Smith and Kent Walker, Google Senior Vice President and General Counsel, in which the latter said that Google would rather not go in on a joint bid for Nortel's patents.

It appears that the gloves are off in the mobile operating system battle, and Google is running out of friends to help keep it off the canvas. 

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RE: Companies Whinging
By Tony Swash on 8/4/2011 8:02:40 AM , Rating: 2
So do you think it's OK for Google to decline an invitation to join the winning consortium in the Nortel bid and then to complain in public that the Nortel patent portfolio has been bought as part of a conspiracy against Google?

dissimulation, false virtue, cant, posturing, affectation, speciousness, empty talk, insincerity, falseness, deceit, dishonesty, mendacity, pretense, duplicity; sanctimoniousness, sanctimony, pietism, piousness; informal phoniness, fraud.

RE: Companies Whinging
By Iaiken on 8/4/11, Rating: -1
RE: Companies Whinging
By Tony Swash on 8/4/2011 10:35:19 AM , Rating: 5
Yes, because even if Google had joined the consortium, you can virtually Google would have been kept far away from patents that could be used against them. Are you seriously that daft as to think that Apple and Microsoft wouldn't approach the winning market competitor under a false flag of friendship and cooperation and then try to use that approach against them later when the declined?

The problem with the way the consortium worked was that the patents in the war chest weren't simply held in trust and licensed to all the participants, they were instead parceled out by Apple and Microsoft to their liking. Since we don't have the rest of the e-mails, we don't have the details on what exactly was offered to Google, but if they turned it down, it likely wasn't favorable or even equitable.

But Tony, don't let logical analysis of strategic market moves get in the way of wild speculation. Until we have ALL of the facts, it's impossible to judge.

It's a bit rich to make a claim about waiting for the facts when I am the posting the facts and you are the one posting the speculation based on zero evidence.

Two can play at the 'let's speculate about this' game.

My assumption, and it could be wrong, is that when a consortium deal like this is done it goes something like this: all members of the consortium are protected agains the patents in the entire consortium portfolio (i.e. members of the winning consortium cannot sue other members of the consortium over patents in the portfolio purchased by the consortium) a sort of collective cross licence. It is also possible, and likely given what is known, that some patents in the consortium portfolio belong to individual companies in the consortium so that if that patent is infringed by a company not in the consortium, it is the individual member of the consortium who owns that patent that can sue and claim damages/license fees etc.

Now I don't have any hard information that this was the way the consortium works, just as you don't have any information that Google was in danger of being discriminated against within the consortium, but my common sense says that for a consortium to actually work, i.e to be a joint and collective undertaking, it would probably have to work something like this. If it didn't then why would small companies participate in the large consortium, what advantage would there be for them in doing so? Why would anybody participate in a consortium if they could still end up being sued over the patents in question. It just sounds implausible. But as I said I don't know any of this for sure - I am just speculating like you.

Frankly I just think you are clutching a straws here. Google are shown to be duplicitous and hypercritical and to be playing the court of public opinion with mendacious statements and all you can do is bleat on about how it must be a plot against Google. You whine worse than Google and that's saying something. Please get honest.

RE: Companies Whinging
By ltcommanderdata on 8/4/2011 10:36:40 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know what Google was/would have been offered, but the consortium result didn't look like Apple/Microsoft mistreated the mobile competitors within the group. RIM and Ericsson both got full licenses to the portfolio. RIM also negotiated to get Nortel's operating loses, so that with tax breaks for absorbing the loses, they might end up paying nothing for all those patents. EMC was able to negotiate complete ownership of a subset of the patents they were interested in. Sometimes negotiation and compromise works.

RE: Companies Whinging
By Mitch101 on 8/4/2011 10:38:49 AM , Rating: 3
Sure would be nice if Microsoft, Apple, etc foot the bill for the Nortel patents and made them open source. I'm sure if Google purchased all the patents they would OK with everyone infringing on their patent portfolio. /sarcasm off

RE: Companies Whinging
By sprockkets on 8/4/2011 1:31:36 PM , Rating: 2
They freed On2's VP8 into the open domain, which is covered by patents. When's the last time apple did that (Microsoft did for C#)?

RE: Companies Whinging
By ltcommanderdata on 8/4/2011 1:53:07 PM , Rating: 4
Apple developed OpenCL themselves and then submitted it to the Khronos Group of industry feedback and ratification as an open standard. Apple developed miniDP and submitted it for incorporation into the official DisplayPort spec, where it was approved. miniDP was one enabler of the original AMD Eyefinity 6 in order to physically fit 6 output ports on the back of the graphics card. miniDP has since been adopted by the Thunderbolt port spec.

Apple continues to lead open source WebKit development despite it being used by many of their competitors like Google, RIM, Nokia, Adobe, etc. They released their Safari sandbox implementation as WebKit2. They also lead the open source LLVM compiler, CUPS printing framework, continue to open source the underlying layers of their OS as Darwin OS, open sourced their Grand Central Dispatch multithreading scheme, contribute to OpenJDK, X11, Ruby, the list goes on.

Apple is obviously a company out to make money, but Apple and open are not always diametric opposites.

RE: Companies Whinging
By Black1969ta on 8/4/2011 9:50:20 PM , Rating: 2
miniDp is not an open spec for Thunderbolt, it is just the format that Apple will use on the Macs, much like Sony has decided to use their own proprietary interface. Thus it is not "open"

RE: Companies Whinging
By TakinYourPoints on 8/5/2011 7:20:13 AM , Rating: 2
Incorrect, one of the reasons miniDP was selected for Thunderbolt is because it is an open spec with no licensing fees involved. Note that the first Light Peak demo that Intel and Apple showed several years ago used a USB plug, and they changed away from that for a reason. Thunderbolt compatible devices all use miniDP ports.

Here is a quote from the USB Implementers Forum:

"USB connectors are not general purpose connectors and are not designed to be used in support of other technology applications or standards or as combo connectors."

Sony paid to use a USB connector for their own proprietary TB solution, and the only device compatible with that happens to be their own docking station.

No surprise though, Sony and "proprietary" is par for the course. :)

RE: Companies Whinging
By sprockkets on 8/5/2011 8:11:17 AM , Rating: 2
And where in anything you just posted mentioned apple releasing PATENTS into the open domain?

Yeah, apple did some stuff. It's vastly overshadowed by all the BS litigation about suing over a tablet look and all the other crap they do.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

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