Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

Summary: Google is accusing the coalition that recently purchased 6,000 Nortel patents as engaging in an anticompetitive strategy.

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The gloves are officially off, as of a Google blog post on August 3: Google is accusing the coalition that recently purchased 6,000 Nortel patents as engaging in an anticompetitive strategy.

Those fighting words came from David Drummond, Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer. The blog post -- entitled "When Patents Attack Android" --follows on a report by the Wall Street Journal late last week that the U.S. Department of Justice was scrutinizing the purchase for potential anticompetitive angles.

The Nortel patent purchase was finalized on July 29. Microsoft is part of a consortium that purchased for $4.5 billion about 6,000 patents from the bankrupt Nortel (which, at one time, was a Microsoft strategic partner). Comprised of Microsoft, Apple, Ericsson, EMC, Sony and RIM, the consortium beat out Google for the bundle of Nortel telecommunications-focused patents. Apple contributed the lion’s share ($2.6 billion) to the consortium’s patent pool. Microsoft originally signaled it wasn’t going to bid on the Nortel patents, as it had a comprehensive patent cross-licensing deal in place which officials said covered the patents that were on the block.

From: Drummond's blog post:

"Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.

"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 Mobile; 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."

(The $15 per phone figure is not confirmed and may be more like $5 per phone, but that's just an aside)

Drummond said the goal of those who purchased the patents it to make Android devices more expensive for consumers. The implication is the Android phone makers will have to pass on patent royalty fees they are paying Microsoft and Apple to customers because they'll no longer be able to get the operating system for free.

I've asked Microsoft for comment on the Google post. If and when I hear back, I will add it.

Update: Microsoft PR told me the company wasn't commenting on Google's blog post. But Brad Smith, Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel, just tweeted the following (which is somewhat related, but not directly addressing the Nortel patent issue): "Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.."

So... I guess that's a semi-comment and not a complete no comment (?).... Update No. 2: I asked Google last night for comment on Microsoft's Novell comment. (Are you confused yet?) I received no response. But today, Google updated its Android attack blog post and included information on Microsoft's Novell comment. From the update:

"It's not surprising that Microsoft would want to divert attention by pushing a false "gotcha!" while failing to address the substance of the issues we raised. If you think about it, it's obvious why we turned down Microsoft’s offer. Microsoft's objective has been to keep from Google and Android device-makers any patents that might be used to defend against their attacks. A joint acquisition of the Novell patents that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners. Making sure that we would be unable to assert these patents to defend Android — and having us pay for the privilege — must have seemed like an ingenious strategy to them. We didn't fall for it."

(Thanks to FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller for the heads up on Google's post.)

Topics: Collaboration, Apple, Google, Legal, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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147 comments
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  • Message has been deleted.

    steveymacjr1
    • That was stupid.

      @steveymacjr1
      :)
      William Farrell
      • WM aside, I bet if Google would win that patent bid, then their ownership

        @William Farrell: ... would not be "anti-competitive". ;)))
        DDERSSS
      • Google too attempted to buy Nortel patents

        ... and got outbid. Calling it a foul game afterward sounds like a bitter loser.
        LBiege
      • Increcibly stupid...

        "Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it.?

        Patents are meant to keep scumbags from stealing IP... And should those scum bags steal that IP, then patents can be used to stop the lying, cheating, scum bags. And Google knows that they are the lying cheating scum bags and those tools have the gall to whine about it.... Increcibly stupid... Google can go rot in hell for all I care... Google Sucks...
        i8thecat3
      • Google's claim has merit

        @LBiege

        I disagree. I believe Google was trying to buy the patents to keep the owners from making a claim against them. The patent system is meant to encourage risk. Google is arguing that these patents are enforcing the dominance of one group of phone makers over another.

        I do not believe trying the buy the patents diminishes the claim.
        richardgarrick
      • I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic

        I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, BidsOut.c0m
        ParsonsJon
    • RE: Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

      @steveymacjr1 I find it hard to take any idiot seriously if they can't get an OS's name correct after nearly a year. If you're trying to push your opinions on others, at least get your basic facts right. This whole "story" is just a sign that Google is panicking (justifiably perhaps) about a potential threat. Any level headed person would not want Android hamstrung as the competition breeds innovation and improvement to all competitors improving to stay alive - the end users reap the benefit. Even so, Drummond should do his research. If the Guy at the top can't do it, that doesn't bode well for the rest of the organization.
      mountjl
    • RE: Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

      @steveymacjr1 It's not Windows Mobile dumbass. It's Windows Phone. If you can't even get the name of the OS right, how can anyone take you seriously.<br><br>As a platform, WP Mango wipes it's butt with Android.
      JoeHTH
      • RE: Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

        @JoeHTH Really it wipes "it is" butt with Android? If you want to be pedantic about semantics other people can do it to you. Also, generally questions end with "?" So when you say to him "How can anyone take you seriously," you need to add a question mark at the end of that. I grade your post an F.

        Also WM was the predecessor to WP7... The previous release of WM was WM6.5. I don't really think that distinction matters that much when you consider the fact that they incremented the previous version number.
        snoop0x7b
  • RE: Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

    So does this mean that Google can copy anyone's innovation, give it away for free, make a boatload of money with ads and then cry a river when the innovator sues them? I understand legal action may not be the best way forward, but Google could do so much in Android because it could copy instead of creating from scratch. Nice innovation Google!
    browser.
    • meh

      @browser.
      Buying a patent portfolio simply for the sake of litigating against a competitor, a la Oracle, MS, and Apple is fairly disgusting.
      hoaxoner
      • RE: Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

        @hoaxoner
        So if one can copy Google's search engine code [similar to how Android copied Java], copy their search architecture [similar to how Android copied iPhone] and copy their ad business [similar to how Android copied MS malware ;)] and start a search engine, giving away the ads at 1/10th of what Google is charging, would it be ok with Google? Looks like its ok according to Google's top lawyer. Oh, one of my copycat partner has created a page that looks exactly like Google's [sorry Samsung for using your nickname]
        browser.
      • Is that what they're trying to do, or is Google giving away

        @hoaxoner
        someone else's IP the issue here?

        Funny how they'll claim what is happening is anti-competitive, yet feel that giving away for free an OS (because they can afford to) that others charge for isn't anti-competitive.

        They could have Google license the IPs, which is fine as part the cost that MS charges for WP7 likely goes to cover licensed IP.
        William Farrell
      • What Google did with Android is even more disgusting...

        @hoaxoner

        Let's go back to 2007, when the iPhone was just announced and spy shots showed pre-release Android phone prototypes looking like warmed over Blackberries. Jump to fall 2008. The first Android production Android phone came to market and wouldn't you know, it suddenly had a multi-touch capable, gesture based UI. With each successive release of Android, it has become more an more iPhone-like. Where in the world did Google get the inspiration for Android's touch friendly features? What about Apple's pending patents for all of these features? Similarly, on the hardware side, Samsung has stooped to not only copying the form factor and look of the phone, they've copied the home screen icons, accessories, and even the product packaging. Where does the copying stop?

        Patents exist to promote innovation by protecting those who actually invent stuff. Patents protect these innovators from copycats like Google, Motorola, HTC, and Samsung.

        Like it or not patent wars are waged on piles of patents. Unfortunately, it's not enough that Apple has 200+ patents protecting every aspect of the multi-touch UI, data detector software, object oriented OS architecture, etc. Apple needs to obtain every patent it can get to build a comprehensive portfolio of old old cellular patents to block the other guys old cellular patents. This will allow a fair hearing on the merits of Apple's new and very relevant iPhone patents, copyrights, and trade dress.
        pjs_boston
      • RE: Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

        @hoaxoner

        One could argue that attempting to buy a patent portfolio simply for the sake of defending itself for possible patent violations is equally disgusting.
        TroyMcClure
      • yup

        @piousmonk
        Totally agree. If the innovating company does not act on the patents, there should be no action.
        hoaxoner
      • RE: Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

        @hoaxoner

        and why do you think google was trying to buy them??? For funsies??? They wanted them to try and counteract other legitimate cases from Apple, MS and oracle....

        So you think its ok for someone to spend $900m and suddenly can violate 100's of other patents, because they bought some patents of someone else?

        All the coalition did was buy them to protect their other legitimate claims.

        I hope google gets screwed over royally on it just like MS did, talking multi billion dollar.... If anything google is worse than MS
        daniejam
      • RE: Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

        @daniejam
        All major tech companies violate patents from each other. Having patents for cross licencing is basically a common practice. If Google didn't then they would have to pay a fee. Paying for patents that can be used for cross licencing is an alternative to paying that fee.

        Anyways, to bring you back from your completely irrelevant rant. The reason this purchase is being investigated by the FCC is because Google's competitors teamed up against Google. If they had gone alone there would be no issue as they were all approved to bid for the patents.
        anono
      • RE: Google calls Microsoft-Apple collaboration on Nortel patents anti-competitive

        @anono

        Where did they say they bought them to screw google over?? Where did you get this insider knowledge??

        I think it is however safe to assume they did buy them to stop google acquiring them so they can counter sue... They already have enough infringements on google, so nothing they did is anti-competative, if anything google was the company trying to do that.
        daniejam