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Groklaw accuses Mueller of quid pro quo -- attacks on Google for a lucrative consulting deal

Some of you may be familiar with the close coverage of the case from Florian Müller (Anglicized as Mueller), the FOSS Patents "legal expert" who has closely followed many of the lawsuits against Android operating system maker Google Inc. (GOOG).

I. Google's Biggest "Hater"

The former critic of software patents has played the curious role of born-again software patent evangelist, arguing that not all software patents are bad.  His frequent exclusive court documents and quotes allowed him to enjoy a meteoric rise in the world of journalism and blogging.  Over the last couple years he has cited by The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalCNET, DailyTech, and virtually other major tech publication under the sun.

If there was one constant in his commentary, it was that at nearly every step of the way, this proported independent journalist looked to portray Google as the big bad patent infringer.  Mr. Müller's claims regarding the recent Oracle Corp. (ORCL) Java lawsuit against Google were parrotted by many in the media, but were blasted by some veterans including Ed Burnette [source], a ZDNet blogger, and ArsTechnica's Ryan Paul [source].

Oracle Court
Mr. Müller's accounting of various Google court cases has long seemed curiously slanted.
[Image Source: Reuters]

I too had my suspicions about the blogger's claims.  I long suspected that he might be on Oracle or Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) payroll (or both), but I largely kept my suspicions to comments like this:

Florian Mueller's pro-Apple anti-Google stance has been made abundantly clear so I would take his commentary with a grain of salt.

For example he claimed that all Android tablets would be banned as a result of the PI loss by Samsung in Australia, but he was wrong:" rel="nofollow" rel="nofollow

The Sydney Morning Herald characterized Mr. Mueller's incorrect commentary as "ominous" and quotes an experienced lawyer (Mr. Mueller has no law degree) as saying Mr. Mueller is likely wrong.

II.  The Truth

DailyTech refrained from reprinting Mr. Müller's more extremist views as "expert fact" as some other sites stated, instead sticking to using the quotes and court documents he provided.

I always hoped that the FOSS Patent chief's commentary was simply an opinionated, but independent source.  But Mr. Müller's own bombshell admission calls his objectivity sharply into question.  He writes:

Disclosure of recently-formed consulting relationship with Oracle

I have been following Oracle v. Google since the filing of the lawsuit in August 2010 and have read pretty much every line of each court filing in this litigation. My long-standing views on this matter are well-documented. As an independent analyst and blogger, I will express only my own opinions, which cannot be attributed to any one of my diversity of clients. I often say things none of them would agree with. That said, as a believer in transparency I would like to inform you that Oracle has very recently become a consulting client of mine. We intend to work together for the long haul on mostly competition-related topics including, for one example, FRAND licensing terms.

Due to various delays, the trial now happens to occur pretty much at the start of this new relationship, and I will continue to cover this lawsuit in detail on this blog, especially during these eventful and interesting weeks. I won't have access to confidential information, but as Judge Alsup noted, this is a public trial, so there's no shortage of publicly available information.

Last year I mentioned my work on a Microsoft-commissioned study on the worldwide use of FRAND-pledged patents, and it's no secret that I have multiple clients in the financial services industry. Nothing has changed about my existing working relationships in any way. I am proud to serve these first-rate clients, and I will continue to work hard to provide all of them -- and all of my readers -- with reliable and accurate analysis.

FOSS Patents
It's official -- anti-Google blogger Florian Müller is on Oracle's payroll. 
[Image Source: DailyTech LLC/Jason Mick]

That alone may raise some eyebrows and red flags given the nature of Mr. commentary.

The fact that the disclosure came only on heels of swirling accusations on Groklaw makes the disclosure a bit more suspicious.  Further, Groklaw contributor pj writes:

It seems, according to the story, that Mueller and Oracle kissed and made up after he fought against Oracle and lost before the EU Commission, back when it was considering whether or not to allow Oracle to buy Sun. Remember the MySQL affair? No doubt Oracle deeply admired his work. Well. That's not what *I* heard.

Anyway, he has known, I gather, that he was going to be working for Oracle as an "analyst" and "for the long haul" for some time, he indicates. But he didn't think to mention it until now.

That's a very serious allegation.  Groklaw -- a keen observer in many of Google's recent lawsuits -- has thrown down the gauntlet and officially accused Mr. Müller (albeit in a legally careful roundabout fashion) of payola.

While one cannot deny that Mr. Müller (clearly well funded) has been following several Google-related lawsuits like a hawk, posting interesting legal insight and commentary, and exclusive court briefs, the issue is that Mr. Müller presented himself as an unbiased expert-cum-journalist.  If Groklaw's allegations prove true, Mr. Müller might as well kiss his career as a journalist goodbye.

Journalists, of course, are never supposed to be taking money from a company that they're writing about -- that's a classic conflict of interest, which would cause even your freshest J-school professors to wince with disdain.

For now Mr. Mueller is innocent until proven guilty with respect to Groklaw's allegations.  What it known and obvious is that the circumstances surrounding his sudden employment are highly suspicious and while he claims to be able to continue to provide independent commentary, he is no longer a credible journalistic voice with respect to Google, Apple, or Oracle.  At this point his opinion must be viewed as a paid spokesperson.

As for his past commentary, that's open to debate, depending on whether Groklaw's allegations prove true.

III. A Foul Smell From FOSS Patents 

We all make mistakes -- I've certainly had my share of the factual and grammatical flavor.  But I can safely say I've never taken money from a company who I'm writing or posting independent analysts about.  I am careful to even avoid owning stock in the companies I regularly write about.

Taking cash from the companies your blogging/writing about is kind of like a high school teacher dating his female pupil.  It's inappropriate.  It's peverse.  It's sick and wrong.

To me, to be caught taking cash for favorable posts is one and only thing -- payola.

To be fair, Mr. Müller for all his pro-Oracle, anti-Google rhetoric, is not alone in possibly falling victim to this forbidden fruit.  Indeed DailyTech exposed many such seemly dealings in the hardware reviews business, headlined by an eye-opening exposé that brought former executive editor Kristopher Kubicki much loathing from those whose dirt was exposed, but much respect from our readers.

That said Mr. Müller's relationship, if indeed as filthy as Groklaw claims, isn't an apples and apples comparison to these small fish.  Slanted reviews on a site with a million page views a month is a pitance compared with the levels of fame and fortune Mr. Müller's alleged secret relationship may have brought.  If Groklaw is right, Mr. Müller not only committed the cardinal sin of the journalistic world -- in affect accepting cash for coverage -- but he did it in the most flagrant ostentatious way possible.

Pass the Cash
FOSS Patents's Müller already admits to now being paid by Oracle.  Groklaw accuses the blogger of cultivating a long-time relationship with the company, agree to write anti-Google pieces in exchange for a future consulting gig. [Image Source: i-Sight]

To borrow the memo [PDF] from Microsoft's James Plamondon printed by Groklaw following the admission:

Analysts: Analysts are people who are paid to take a stand, while always trying to appear to be disinterested observers (since the appearance of independence maximizes the price they can charge for selling out). Treat them as you would treat nuclear weapons – as an important part of your arsenal, which you want to keep out of the hands of the enemy. Bribe Hire them to produce "studies" that "prove" that your technology is superior to the enemy's, and that it is gaining momentum faster.

Mr. Müller cheered bans on Android tablets writing, "I'd rather live in a world in which some wireless devices get banned from time time than in a dictatorship with a weak rule of law."

Innocent until proven on the payroll, but this editor's gut has long told him that those words do not sound like that of a credible journalist, independent analyst, or editor, but rather the words of a clandestine hired attack-dog for Google's rivals.

Sources: Groklaw [additional accusations], FOSS Patents [disclosure]

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

who is this "Jason Mick"...
By haar on 5/8/2012 8:50:05 AM , Rating: -1
so the author should come clean... because he/she is a de facto Google/andriod shill... one does not need to be paid to become a shill..

your blogs paint the picture that you HATE Apple... LOVE Google... if that is not the case, your scores of Apple blogs "reporting" say otherwise.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By hemmy on 5/8/2012 1:12:49 PM , Rating: 5
What's funny about this is everyone on this site used to bash Jason for being an Apple fan-boy, a lot like Michael Asher was the "Anti-global warming guy".

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By adiposity on 5/8/2012 2:46:05 PM , Rating: 2
What's funny about this is everyone on this site used to bash Jason for being an Apple fan-boy

Guess he cleared up that misunderstanding!

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By geddarkstorm on 5/8/2012 3:02:42 PM , Rating: 5
What's ironic about the OP's post is calling Jason an Android shrill after Jason purchased a Lumina 900 and been raving about the virtues of that phone and Windows Phone 7.

Some folks just can't believe that other people can have preferences that change with time.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By adiposity on 5/8/12, Rating: -1
RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By dark matter on 5/9/2012 8:27:49 AM , Rating: 2
Is Apple your mum? Is he insulting your mum?

Get over it.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By adiposity on 5/9/2012 1:57:54 PM , Rating: 2
No, actually I'm not a fan of apple either. My phone is a Droid 3 and my computer runs Windows 7. Slow down on the knee-jerk.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By bupkus on 5/16/2012 3:00:56 PM , Rating: 2
By your selections can I assume you also are anti-Apple?

I admit that I feel anti-apple but that is mostly for the silly comments and defensiveness exhibited by some apple fans prostrating themselves before the great and holy Apple machine.
My opinion? Buy what you like and get a life. It's nobody else's business.
As for Apple's corporate culture... I really don't admire it.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By adiposity on 5/16/2012 10:48:48 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not anti-apple. However, I do think they are way overpriced in most market segments. Phones might be an exception, as there are many Android phones that cost just as much. I chose my Droid because I have a lot of control over what it does, as opposed to the iPhone. Many times I need to change a preference on my clients iPhones, but I can't, because it doesn't exist. So, this annoys me. But, I accept that Apple has its place, it's just not for power users like me.

Similarly, I have used Windows/DOS since about DOS 2.0, and never wanted a Mac because it was too limiting in favor of being easy to use, as well as costing a lot more.

That said, I do think the anti-Apple sentiment is kind of hilariously over the top on this site. I prefer Windows and Android, but Apple does some things better than both MS and Google--just not the things that I care about.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By spread on 5/26/2012 11:31:23 PM , Rating: 2
I do think the anti-Apple sentiment is kind of hilariously over the top on this site.

You should see the pro-Apple sentiment. Can't talk about a new piece of hardware or software without comparing it to Apple.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By Motoman on 5/9/2012 10:43:04 PM , Rating: 4
That's because Macolytes' preferences don't change...ever. Saying that your preferences change at all implies some sort of decision-making process...there is no decision-making process with Apple consumers though. Either it's Apple or it's not. Ergo, either they buy it, or they don't. No thinking involved...and no "changing" of preferences.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By bupkus on 5/16/2012 3:09:28 PM , Rating: 2
I have to add this--

My gf was in Israel with her best female friend recently staying at the home of another friend. The husband resident saw my gf with her Touchpad and asked if it was an iPad. She answered no and he just turned away as if nothing else deserved even a cursory notice.
Kinda just says it all.

By TakinYourPoints on 5/16/2012 9:56:39 PM , Rating: 2
The Touchpad is trash, to be fair. Not as bad as Honeycomb tablets that came out around the same time, but still really bad. Good thing HP ended up giving those away though.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/9/12, Rating: -1
RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By Aries1470 on 5/10/2012 10:08:59 PM , Rating: 2
Well, that is true for many people, as some of my comments have been in the past anti-apple, for the way they behaved and their over priced, most NON-INDUSTRY-STANDARDS compliance with their interfaces. And yes, I know they did push for some "industry standards" of which they still did not comply 100% with and changed them slightly!

I use to like Apple, alot actually but could never afford them, way back from the 8-Bit era.

I still have a sticker of theirs that I acquired from the 1st Computer fair / trade show that was in 1983 Athens - Greece.

I ended up getting as an early teen - basically bought for me - a TI-99/4a, a Commodore 128D, and some rented ones, yes, rented back then.. Acorn Atom and a Laser 200... until we got an IBM PC 386DX!

As for phones, I had been an Ericcson, then Sony Ericcson then Nokia, LG, then S.E. P910 then I-Mate K-Jam, then a BB & Samsung i9000 plus a Palm Centro then I wanted an Apple, but... I could not get it withought going to a crappy Apple contract - I would not pay to buy one, my plan has plenty of features of which serve me well, of which newer plans do not offer.

Well, no (cr)Apples for me then.

I have a choice of getting nearly any phone I want except theirs since they want an exclusive contract with bugger all features?

Well... I went the S.E. road again, then had a SGS1, acquired a SGS2 since the Telco's were nice to me, and also a HTC Desire HD, and now I got myself a great Moto Razr/ Reason I went Moto, because their was a bundle of accessories! Keyboard & Mouse - both BT, and a Docking station with HDMI cable. I love the phone, and still learning more things about it, and some short comming due to the heavily modified interface, but that is the beauty of getting a new handset and learning about all its features.
I have even used it as a temporary computer connected to my plasma. Just use the dock and KB/Mouse and browsing or even document editing. Yes, I can use it on my p.c. monitors too.. but still, it is ALL ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE YOU HAVE . I am happy with the deal I got.

So, what has (cr)Apple offered me, to get their product? Absulutely nothing, and on top of that, they wanted a walled environment, coloured glasses to paint them in good colour and the list goes on.

Oh yes, I think in the U.S. you would call my plan "Grandfathered". Well... what can I say, due to family issues, I need a most of my "CAP" for international calls... I have bolt on data, and wifi at home, and also a pre-paid with a huge 5Gig of data... but can I get the Apple on my plan, as ANY OTHER MANUFACTURER? A BIG NO .

At least here in Australia, we are entitled according to our Cap contract plan to TOTALLY SUBSIDISED HANDSETS or pay a small token amount each month for the life of the contract - either 12 or 24 month term. Before it is up, around the 21st month you are entitled to an upgrade...
I am talking about $79 caps and over for good handsets and $49 and over for mid-range or a small token for hi-end.

So am I company biased? No.

Do I hate (cr)Apple for crippling the MP3 market, YOU BET.


Do I hate how they act to competition, no doubt - within limits ofcourse. If it is down right 100% pure copy and no licensing was asked, then yes, I am for them, if it is a frivilous patent etc, as the majority of them are, then they can go the way of the Dodo. Swipe to unlock? THEY ARE THE INFRINGES, already used on a phone BEFORE THEY GOT THEIRS OUT! btw, I do not use that on the phones I have. :-)

Do I HATE THE LIES THAT JOBS SAID? Yes! Way back when there were Mac clone makers and then one moment he wants them, of which manufacturers had licenses to make them, and then SCREWING THEM OVER! by suing them and braking contracts and promises in the developer forum. He was just a plain old BASTARD LIER and extortionist!
I wish Wozniak would just be back in APPLE and do what he did best. That is the one I liked most back in the day and still do.
What I did like about them was, they had style, stole many ideas and merged and excecuted them in to single devices nicely.

Ok, enough ranting about (cr)Apple.

Now, if only BB can deliver and WebOS was to be used and developed by an other company, that would have been nice. At the moment, it seems like BB is taking many WebOS features and putting them in their v10.

Ok, now off I go.

btw, as to the article, it was fairly clear, even when mr. F. was trying to be "unbiased" you could read between the lines of his dislike or trying to warp judgements etc to still show that a "win" was a "loss"... :-) BUT I still found it entertaining since his blog contained information for most litigations going on in one place about android et al.

RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By testerguy on 5/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: who is this "Jason Mick"...
By Cheesew1z69 on 5/12/2012 10:20:24 AM , Rating: 4
For any impartial reader
That counts you out...

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