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Friday, August 5, 2011

Google: Apple, Microsoft battle with Android

Anti-competitive means escalating both patent and product costs, says company chief legal officer
Search engine company Google has accused Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies of banding together to wage a hostile, organised campaign against its OS for smartphones Android.
As Android has gained popularity, the search engine company has found itself in focus for patent infringement by its competitors.
This week, Google purchased over 1,000 patents from IBM to strengthen its defences against future patent litigations.
Google senior vice-president and chief legal officer David Drummond wrote on the company's official blog,"Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other's throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what's going on."
Drummond accused the companies of resorting to anti-competitive means by banding together "to acquire Novell's old patents (the "CPTN" group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel's old patents (the "Rockstar" group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn't get them."
Recently, Google failed to win in its bid to buy more than 6,000 patents from the bankrupt Canadian communications equipment maker Nortel Networks.
Nortel's approximately 6,000 patents included those in wireless, 4G, semiconductor and data networking IP technologies.
Google had bid $900m for about 6,000 of patents put up for sale, but it lost out to a group of competitors that included Apple and Microsoft, which offered $4.5bn in cash.
Drummond also said the companies were seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android -- which Google provides free of charge -- than Windows Phone 7.
Drummond added that the recent cases against Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung aimed to stop innovation, not encourage it.

"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," said Drummond.
After buying the patents from IBM, Google had told the New York Times, "Like many tech companies, at times we'll acquire patents that are relevant to our business needs. Bad software patent litigation is a wasteful war that no one will win."
Drummond also wrote that the anti-competitive strategy adopted by Apple and Microsoft is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they're really worth.
"The winning $4.5 billion for Nortel's patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion," Drummond wrote.
Drummond said that Google is encouraged that the Department of Justice is looking into whether Microsoft and Apple acquired the Nortel patents for anti-competitive means and that the company is aiming to strengthening its own patent portfolio.
Meanwhile, Google has reportedly hired US government lawyer Suzanne Michel from the Federal Trade Commission into its team.
In April this year, a Texas jury had ruled that in using Linux on its back-end servers, Google had infringed a patent held by Texas-based Bedrock Computer Technologies and must pay $5m in compensation.
Bedrock had sued Google and other companies including Yahoo, Amazon, PayPal and AOL -- claiming the companies infringed a patent filed in January 1997 by using various versions of the Linux kernel on their servers.

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