When patents attack-This week Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond berated Apple, Microsoft and others for exploiting the patent system to wage a war against Google’s popular Android operating system. In a post to the Official Google Blog Drummond contends that Android’s success has sparked a hostile, anti-competitive campaign by Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and others “waged through bogus patents.” Drummond continues, stating:
They’re doing this 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; seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Phone 7; and even suing Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop 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.
This anti-competitive strategy 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. Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anti-competitive means — which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop.”
Indeed, the American Antitrust Institute has asked regulators to investigate Nortel’s patent sale. Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion, Oracle and others teamed up to buy Nortel’s stockpile of patents for $4.5 billion last month. Many are calling it the largest intellectual property auction of all time.
There are two sides to this argument of which we should be aware. On the one hand, the U.S. Patent Office has been criticized as of late for granting patent protection to steams of dubious software “inventions,” which has sparked a pattern of patent hoarding, lawsuits, countersuits and industry suspicion. On the other hand, some have argued that Google willingly entered the wireless marketing, knowing full well it was riddled with patent trolls and heavy competition. As the intellectual property analyst Florian Müller explained to Ars, “Google decided to enter the wireless communications sector, which has been notoriously litigious for quite some time. Android’s problem isn’t any single patent holder or any particular conspiracy—it’s the aggregate effect of dozens of lawsuits. I actually think that all those patent holders just do what’s the normal course of business for them, as opposed to an organized campaign, for which Google doesn’t present any evidence.”
**For more information on patent trolls and defensive and aggressive patent buying, I highly recommend listening to NPR’s Laura Sydell and This American Life/Planet Money’s Alex Blumberg story of Intellectual Ventures, an infamous patent troll. It provides an easy to understand perspective on patents and the problems they currently face in the software industry.
Realtime Search returning with Google Plus- Google discontinued its Realtime search feature earlier last month. Today Rob D. Young from Search Engine Watch reported that Google plans to re-release real-time results within Google Plus. According to Young, “Plans were confirmed in a search panel in Mountain View, California, where Amit Singhal, Google Fellow, responded to questions about the fate of Realtime search. Singhal indicated that the company was in the process of bringing the service back and integrating Google+ data into the stream. Other social services are also intended as a part of the “new” Realtime search, although exact details haven’t been released.”
Facebook acquires Push Pop Press- On Tuesday Facebook announced its plans to acquire Push Pop Press, an interactive digital book publisher. According to Push Pop Press, Facebook doesn’t plan to become a publisher anytime soon: “Although Facebook isn’t planning to start publishing digital books, the ideas and technology behind Push Pop Press will be integrated with Facebook, giving people even richer ways to share their stories. With millions of people publishing to Facebook each day, we think it’s going to be a great home for Push Pop Press.”
Google acquires Dealmap- Google announced this week it acquired Dealmap, a start-up that aggregates deals and online coupons from group-buying sites, for an undisclosed amount. According to an announcement from Google, “We are impressed with what the Dealmap team has accomplished and excited to welcome them to Google. We’ve been thrilled with the early success of our commerce offerings, and we think they can help us build even better products and services for consumers and merchants.”
I know there were some other important stories this week I didn’t cover, so please share them below!
Also, have you seen Matthew Epstein’s viral video/website “Google Please Hire Me”? If you haven’t, you should check it out. If you have, I’d love to know what you think about his personal ad campaign. Smart or annoying?