Google’s war against patents

googles war against patents 2 larry page google patentsjpg

On Wednesday, Google came out strong against Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and other companies, arguing that they are waging “a hostile, organized campaign against Android” by purchasing a large number of “bogus patents,” which can then use in lawsuits against Google.

Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond explains their side of the story on the company blog:

“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; 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.

“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.

“This anti-competitive strategy is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they’re really worth. The winning $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion. 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.”

Microsoft quickly fired back, saying that they had tried to team up with Google to bid on the patents, but Google declined the offer.

“Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no,” tweeted Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

TechCrunch reports that Microsoft Head of Communications Frank Shaw added to the return fire with a tweet that revealed another Google lawyer, Kent Walker, had declined Microsoft’s request to team up on a patent bid back in October 2010.

The revelation that Microsoft was, in fact, trying to work together with Google, not against it, has led many to argue that Google is just acting like a sore loser.

“They’re effectively arguing against the idea of the patent system itself, simply because Android violates a bunch of patents held by Google’s competitors,” writes Daring Fireball’s John Gruber (a well-known Apple enthusiast). “It’s not ‘patents’ that are attacking Android. It’s competing companies whose patents Google has violated — and whose business Android undermines — who are attacking Android.”

While Google may have undermined its own argument by saying that Microsoft was waging an attack when it had evidently tried to join forces, some contend that Google didn’t go nearly far enough. Rather than fight against specific patents, some say the company should come out against software patents entirely, a stance supported by many computer programmers.

“Google is one of the world’s largest and most prominent victims of our innovation-taxing patent system, so lobbying for better patent laws seems like an obvious way to fight back,” writes Timothy Lee in Forbes.

As Lee points out, Congress is currently working on patent reform legislation with the America Invents Act. But this bill, says Lee,  only offers “modest procedural changes,” and will do little to prevent “the kind of abusive litigation that’s now plaguing Android.”

Google is far from the first organization to point out how broken the US patent system is, especially when it comes to software patents.

Last month, both NPR and the Economist published in-depth reports that offer a wealth of evidence that proves just how broken the US patent system is. Whether or not Google’s crusade will help push forth real change in this area — or even if Google wants real change — remains to be seen.

[Image via]

Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Computing

Google is giving its G Suite web apps new touches of visual improvements

Your G Suite applications will soon have a different look. Several of the web apps are getting updated with subtle visual improvements inspired by Google's Material Design guidelines. 
Mobile

Benchmark scores surface for Google's midrange Pixel 3 XL Lite

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL.
Mobile

Google Fi is getting support for the next-gen messaging standard, RCS Chat

Google has been pushing the development of the RCS Chat standard, and now it's finally bringing that new standard to its own carrier -- Google Fi. With Chat, customers will get features like read receipts, better group messaging, and more.
Mobile

The most expensive Galaxy S10 could be the priciest Galaxy phone we've seen

Not long now; with 2019 underway, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is almost here. Before it arrives, here's absolutely everything you need to know about all three of Samsung's next flagships.
Computing

Yes, Android apps can run on your PC, and it's easier than you think

Wish you knew how to run Android apps in Windows? It's easier than you might think and there are a number of different ways to do it. In this guide, we break down the steps so you can follow along with ease.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Mobile

Unleash your inner artist with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

The best drawing apps for the iPad Pro turn Apple's robust tablet into a canvas worthy of a true artist. Here are 20 of our current favorites, whether you're looking to keep things simple or take your art to the next level.
Android

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019: Complete Coverage

There's no bigger show for mobile tech geeks than Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain: where flagship phones are born and intriguing new wearables shine. And this year, where foldable phones and 5G are likely to dominate the news. For…
Mobile

C you soon? Rumors swirl of a USB-C port on 2019 iPhones

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.
Mobile

Biometric phone unlocks can’t be forced by feds, says U.S. judge

Fingerprint and face unlocks used to not be protected by the Fifth Amendment, but that may soon change. A judge in California has ruled biometric unlocking methods of all kinds are protected in the same way as passcodes.
Mobile

The Note 8 and S8 range now have access to the Android Pie beta

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

The Motorola Razr may return as a foldable phone — for $1,500

The Motorola Razr V3 is one of the world's most iconic phones, and it could be making a stylistic return in the form of a foldable Motorola smartphone -- but it may cost around $1,500. Is the nostalgia worth it?
Mobile

The iPhone XS Battery Case's battery has a smaller capacity than previous cases

Apple has been rumored to be working on a new iPhone battery case for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now, those new cases are finally here, offering seven hours of extra use for each iPhone and are available for $129.