Microsoft hits back at Google's Android patent complaints

Microsoft's Brad Smith has hit back at claims Microsoft bought Novell's patents to keep them from Google

Microsoft's Brad Smith has hit back at claims Microsoft bought Novell's patents to keep them from Google

David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal officer, has posted to the official Google blog When patents attack Android. Within, he makes some astonishing claims, once you get past the bit about how more Android devices are being activated daily than you can shake a stick at. "Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents," he claims, referencing the recent bid for Nortel’s patents, won by a consortium that includes Microsoft, Oracle and Apple (Businessweek).

Drummond argues the bid was a weapon, purely to hamper Android and ensure Google didn't get the patents for itself. He considers this strategy is "anti-competitive" and "[escalates] the cost of patents way beyond what they’re really worth," noting that the winning $4.5billion bid was five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1billion.

Drummond doesn't mention that the pre-auction estimate was largely of Google's making (Reuters), that Google itself bid over $3billion itself and was "willing to go up to $4 billion" (Financial Post), and that it was actually invited to bid jointly, according to a tweet from Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel. Additionally, Microsoft's Frank X Shaw tweeted a grab of an email from Google lawyer Kent Walker, who told Smith a "joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us".

It's hard to know what to draw from all this, other than that Google appears to believes anyone owning patents is bad, unless Google has them itself. And while it’s true that patents are too often used as weapons, they are also used to protect intellectual property, to ensure one company doesn't pilfer from another. The way battle lines are being drawn here is worrying, not least because a patent battle is sure to erupt over WebM, largely touted as the future of web video.

Google declined to comment "beyond the blog post".

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