We are all too familiar with stories about wars being fought for democracy or oil, but who knew the next big war would be over mobile device patents? Recent multi-billion dollar sales of numerous patents previously held by technology giants Nortel and Novell motivated David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer for Google, to cast the first stone with a blog post on the official Google Blog that can only be described as a rather obvious attempt to incite a riot among Android supporters.
While many of his complaints may be rooted in truth and reason, if you read between the lines it sounds like the tantrum of a toddler. Didn’t you know that everybody is being mean to Google?!
So what is all the fuss about? Let’s review:
Drummond claims patents are being sold for far more than they are worth.
From my vantage point, it seems that the patents were purchased ‘fair and square’. When there is a bidding war, it’s common for prices to rise well above what was expected, so what? Sounds like Google is most upset that their own bid for these patents wasn’t high enough to win them. I guess when determining their worth it is only equivalent to what Google was prepared to pay.
Drummond accuses Microsoft and Apple (chiefly, though other companies were involved in the purchases) of employing an anti-competitive strategies by licensing and charging for the patents that they rightly own.
Acknowledging that I am not a lawyer, it would seem that by making the patents available for licensing, nobody is being anti-competitive. Quite the contrary. Google is welcome to use them, they just need to compensate the parties who own them.
Drummond’s post contains one other thing that truly deserves an eyeroll. If I may be allowed to paraphrase, he says that Android is really popular and they give it away for free therefore it’s just not fair that they have to pay for the research and technology that makes it possible.
Let’s pretend for a moment that Google would have given everything away to their competitors for free had they been successful in their own bid to purchase many of these patents, and consider the point that John Gruber hit home by saying the thing we’re all sitting here thinking: “It’s OK for Google to undermine Microsoft’s for-pay OS licensing business by giving Android away for free, but it’s not OK for Microsoft to undermine Google’s attempts to give away for free an OS that violates patents belonging to Microsoft?”
The response? Microsoft didn’t skip a beat. Following Google’s accusations and insinuations, they responded quickly and succinctly with two tweets that have most of us wanting to give them a high-five.
Brad Smith, General Counsel for Microsoft says:
Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.
Frank X. Shaw, Lead Corporate Communications for Microsoft says:
“Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog. “
(The tweet also contains a link to a graphic of an e-mail between Microsoft and Google supporting what Brad Smith claimed in his tweet.)
So far Apple has been fairly quiet on the matter. But after those tweets, what more is there to say?