This week, David Drummond, Google's Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, posted a blog entry on the official Google blog about how technology patents stifle innovation. Coming from a company who is built on stifling innovation, the concept seemed a little odd. However, the post started out on an odd note, talking about how Microsoft and Apple have been at each others throats for years, but Microsoft has held a stake in Apple for over a decade and was once the largest manufacturer of software for Apple devices. He seemed surprised that Microsoft and Apple may have teamed up for something, but I don't think anyone else was.
It all came about because of the recent Nortel patent auction, in which Microsoft, Apple and others banded together to purchase the patents jointly. Google did not want to bid jointly and, instead, bid on their own, obviously losing to the "Rockstar" organization. Drummond, and possibly Google as a whole, believe the team came together specifically to outbid Google to allow for a higher licensing fee for Android (a free OS), than Windows Phone 7, or allowing Microsoft to profit from Android.
Why can't this be the case? Hit the break to find out.
The only problem with that logic is that Apple and the other bidders wouldn't have wanted Microsoft to have the upper hand. Instead, it would appear that the major players in the technology industry came together to ensure that NO ONE had the upper hand. Drummond, however, believes that patents are not a good thing. This could have something to do with the fact that Google is very comfortable with stealing from people when they are not willing to sell, ultimately leading to an international antitrust investigation.
Now, when it comes to patents in Google's hands, Mr. Drummond has a different feeling.
We're encouraged that the Department of Justice forced the group I mentioned earlier to license the former Novell patents on fair terms, and that it's looking into whether Microsoft and Apple acquired the Nortel patents for anti-competitive means. We're also looking at other ways to reduce the anti-competitive threats against Android by strengthening our own patent portfolio. Unless we act, consumers could face rising costs for Android devices — and fewer choices for their next phone.
So, as long as Google owns the patents, it's good for the people, but if Microsoft or Apple own them, it is anti-competitive. That makes sense. The problem here is that Rockstar offered Google the chance to get in on the patent group, essentially making it so that the current big 3 would have unlimited access to the rights for any product. This escaped the notice of Google's Chief Legal Officer, though.
Microsoft's General Counsel Brad Smith responded with a short but to the point tweet:
Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft's communication chief tweeted,
Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog. :)
Pretty mocking, but very appropriate. To make sure everyone knew the score, he also included a photo of an email from Google's General Counsel, Kent Walker.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you — I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn't be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we're open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.
I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Don't let the facts stand in your way, Google. Go ahead and attack people claiming they are doing exactly what you are famous for. That is a good way to make you stand out from Steve Jobs.