November 7, 2011
Google Lawyer Accuses Microsoft Of Bad Patent Tactics
Google, carrying a 43 percent share of the mobile OS market with Android, is at the core of an escalating war over mobile patents, filing scores of lawsuits and countersuits against rival companies, such as Microsoft, Apple and Oracle, over mobile intellectual property patents.
Google´s patent counsel has accused Microsoft of using patent licensing as a substitute for product innovation, suggesting that Android original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been pressured into making deals with Microsoft because the company is afraid its own products have been “marginalized.”
Tim Porter, a lawyer for Google, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he did not feel Android development had been impacted by multiple lawsuits on intellectual property in the mobile business, but was more concerned that “the more people get distracted with litigation, the less they´ll be inventing.”
“[Aggressively chasing licensing] is a tactic that Microsoft has used in the past, with Linux, for example. When their products stop succeeding in the marketplace, when they get marginalized, as is happening now with Android, they use the large patent portfolio they´ve built up to get revenue from the success of other companies´ products,” said Porter.
Microsoft, Apple and Oracle have all claimed that Android has infringed on their patents. Oracle has sued Google directly, while Microsoft and Apple have threatened lawsuits against companies that market Android-based products. Apple has successfully kept Samsung´ Galaxy Tab from selling in Australia, while Microsoft has signed half the world´s original design manufacturers to patent protection deals.
Microsoft signed a deal with OEM/ODM Compal in October, which covers the manufacturer´s production of Android and Chrome based devices. At the time, Microsoft struck out at critics of its patent licensing strategy, suggesting that “for those who continue to protest that the smartphone patent thicket is too difficult to navigate, it´s past time to wake up.”
Microsoft also attacked Google, citing criticisms of the search giant suggesting it left manufacturers using Android to struggle in patent licensing. “We´ve stood by our customers and partners with countless agreements that contain the strongest patent indemnification provisions in our industry” Microsoft pointed out. “These ensure that if our software infringes someone else´s patents, we´ll address the problem rather than leave it to others.”
Porter said that Google has in the past aggressively stood behind their partners and continue to do so, and also want to continue to “defend the Android ecosystem.” He confirmed that the sale of patents to HTC earlier this year -- which the company used to launch a countersuit against Apple -- was “definitely part of that.”
Porter maintained that long-fraught patent battles have a negative effect on innovation and that “damages, injunctions and remedies have to be proportional to the value of the invention.”
David Drummond, Google´s top legal officer, said in April that rivals Apple, Microsoft and Oracle have pursued “bogus” patent claims that could drive up the costs of phones running on Android OS.
Patent protection deals are a common revenue strategy for some companies. “This is a tactic that Microsoft has used in the past, with Linux, for example,” said Porter. “When their products stop succeeding in the marketplace, when they get marginalized, as is happening now with Android, they use the large patent portfolio they´ve built up to get revenue from the success of other companies´ products.”
But Porter called the current system “broken” and said that for many years, software patents were written in a vague and overly broad way. “They're being used to hinder innovation or skim revenue off the top of a successful product.”
Porter went on to say that it stands behind its partners and defended Google´s recent attempts to buy patent portfolios from companies such as Nortel as an effort “to increase our ability to protect ourselves when people assert patents against us or our partners.”