How much patent trouble is Google really in

Summary:While most players are playing a dance of suit and countersuit Google can only deny the charges against it because it lacks the kind of patent portfolio that would let it fight back.

Quite a lot, according to Florian Mueller (right).

The anti-patent activist, who now views the fight against them as lost, has been writing a series of articles on Google's patent troubles, each of which shows it in more trouble than the last.

While most players are playing a dance of suit and countersuit, he writes, Google can only deny the charges against it, because it lacks the kind of patent portfolio that would let it fight back.

Google is also in trouble on the copyright front, he writes. Oracle has amended its copyright complaint concerning Java with specific code lines it says were copied. Google's motion to dismiss that part of the suit has been denied.

Copyright is becoming a key issue in open source. A license like the GPL may prove less free to a developer than an Apache license when the license holder also owns copyrights. Oracle seems determined to test this proposition in court, with Google as its victim.

The patent portion of Google's Oracle trouble could be mitigated by Oracle's willingness to apply Fair, Reasonable And Non Discriminatory (FRAND) standards to patents it contributes to the European Interoperability Framework, Mueller writes.

But there are a ton of other software patent holders out there, all of them having been given the all-clear by the refusal of the Roberts Court to provide clarity on software patents in Bilski.

It's open season.

Most recently Vertical Computer Systems, last seen settling a patent deal with Microsoft, filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas (the patent plaintiffs' best friend) against Samsung and LG, both Android phone makers. Gemalto has also filed an Android patent suit.

All this was predictable. Software patents, by their nature, fail my mousetrap test. You can't innovate around them, as you can with a patented mousetrap.

With the problems of software patents now entering medicine, which has traditionally supported the patent law status quo against software makers, a legislative compromise could follow, but it would be too late for Google, which is now up to its neck in lawyers.

Mueller's arguments are controversial. He is famously feuding with Groklaw, winning the enmity of sites like TechRights, which Mueller himself calls "boycott boy."

All this adds heat to the argument, but the light at the end of the tunnel, for Google, could well be an oncoming legal train.

Topics: Google, Legal

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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