Patent Wars: Look Who’s Sulking

The wars have started. Google pinched Microsoft and Apple, among others. Microsoft smirked and laughed it away.

If you remember, Google’s Senior VP and Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, penned a rather childish blog post, sulking at how his company had lost to the Microsoft-Apple team (others, wherever applicable, are included) in its bid to acquire the patent portfolios of Novell and Nortel. Of course, it failed both the times. After failing to acquire, it runs a blog post criticizing the consortium for ‘getting together’ to win the big.

Now, Microsoft’s Brad Smith had this to say –

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BradSmi/status/98902130412355585″]

If Google rejected Redmond’s offer, it is only logical the company finds another partner, which it did. And seeing the new partnership win, and thereby the subsequent possibility of getting sued for patent violation, Google felt the pressure, which it thinks, could be eased by doing a blog post, letting the world know what happened, and what it thinks. Unbecoming of an organisation, for starters.

So Google, here are a couple of questions to you –

  • Why did you, in the first place, bid for the patents when you think that these patents are ‘anti-competitive’ and ‘bogus’ ?
  • Why did you place an initial bid of $1 Billion, and then later increase it to Pi Billion ($3.14 Billion), only to say that Microsoft’s and Apple’s bid of $4.5 Billion was “way beyond what they’re really worth” ?

Yes, the initial bid of a Billion dollars was a stalking-horse bid, but it did stoke the price, and that fully faults Google’s statement of “way beyong what they’re really worth”. Stoke it yourself, and then say it got stoked, and so is unfair? What childishness.

Also, it seems that had Google acquired these patents, it would have been fair, but not the other way round. Someone forgot that a coin has two sides.

But Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.

Bogus patents, really? You’d think that these big companies will spend massively to acquire bogus patents? Sorry, the vagueness of your statement only questions your credibility, more than anything else.

Coming to a company suing another company with its newly acquired patents, I ask, what is wrong in it? The acquiring company had to forgo a part of its resources and interest to get the patents, and if it uses it to rightfully demand royalty from those who use these patented technologies, what is wrong in it? It is only fair. And lawful.

If Google really had the nerve about it, it should have gone ahead and place a successful bid for those patents. If it really didn’t want the ‘competitors’ to attack Android, it should have had the sense to safeguard itself in the first place, rather than whining about it later.

For the number crunchers, at the time of writing this, Google has about 728 patents, plus the 1,000 odd patents it acquired from IBM recently. Microsoft holds more than 15,000 and Apple comes at 4,000. So yeah, Google could have got a massive boost had it got the 6000 odd patents. That it failed only makes me wonder why did it have to place a bid? Apart from stoking the price and then complaining that its competitors paid a price that was way beyond what was worth, what else could it do? The cost of losing this patent battle is incomparable to the privilege of saying (or whining) that an unjustifiable price was paid.

Now, coming to the ‘Patents are being used as a weapon to stop innovation’. I ask, what innovation has Google done in the past decade, apart from marrying Search with Ad system (for its own benefit here, again) ? Apart from having you believe the company is ‘fairly innovative’, I don’t find anything credible here, again. For, it has been on a ‘Acquire it, or destroy it’ spree. Look at Yelp, for example. Or Kidstart. So much for innovation. Patents are not killing innovation, it’s the evilness of these MNCs that is doing the job. Oh well.

An extract –

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.

Right. Android is free, given. Now, it is a well known fact that Android violates numerous patents. By the virtue of that, it uses some other company’s IP (Intellectual Property). Now, the other company may have spent an amount to build its IP, and so, sells its software at a price, unlike Android. So, in effect, Google, by giving away Android for free, is ‘taxing’ its rivals, instead of the other way round. Then again, it makes profits out of it, too. That is a double whammy for the original IP holders as it is. It is only fair they retaliate.

Copy everything the competition has to offer, make the damn thing open source, give it away for free, make revenue indirectly and sit back and enjoy, and you do not want the competitors to do anything about it? Really? And then, ask the competition to compete by “building new features or devices”, only so you can copy them again. Brilliant, brilliant strategy. But oh well, the competition isn’t as naive as you are, you know.

Android is also truly Open Source, or so Google may have you believe. (Surprise surprise, Android is the least open mobile open source platforms).

I perfectly understand the ramifications of the issue. Android is under a threat, but there’s none other than Google to blame. No, you simply cannot go and blame your rivals. They are your competitors, and by that virtue, will do anything that will help them have an edge over you. Imagine a cricket team crying foul about threat from the bowling of its rival.

Google has lost (for now) due to its own lunacy, and I find the so called ‘Android is under attack’ thing nothing more than whining. Come on Google, you could have done better, but this is nowhere near acceptable, even if we love Android. Do something about it, but not what you just did in your blog post.

Official Google Blog