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 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.

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