Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

Summary: It looks like Google, is going to start defending its allies from Android patent lawsuits, while Barnes & Nobles' is upping the stakes in its own Android intellectual property battle with Microsoft

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While Google has been fighting with Oracle over Java's intellectual property (IP) and Android, it hasn't been doing a lot for its Android allies who have been being whipsawed by Apple, Microsoft and patent trolls such as Intellectual Ventures. That may be changing. Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said today in Taiwan that Google will stand by the phone vendors firms in any Android patent lawsuit.

According to Focus Taiwan, Schmidt said, "We disagree with Microsoft that anyone needs to pay Microsoft a royalty fee for products they didn't build. I want to emphasize that Google built these products [Android and Chrome], not Microsoft. We tell our partners, including the ones in Taiwan, that we will support them."

It's not just Microsoft though that Schmidt is giving notice to that Google won't be sitting back in patent lawsuits. "For example, we have been supporting HTC in its dispute with Apple because we think that the Apple thing is not correct."

I also suspect it's because, as Google gets closer to sealing the deal that will bring it Motorola Mobility. Google will be able to use its Motorola Mobility patent arsenal against Android's enemies in the courtroom.

Thanks to the total failure of the patent system when it comes to software, litigation rather than innovation rules the mobile software market. With Motorola Mobility under its belt and Intel as an Android partner, Google has the bullets it needs to fight and win in this war.

One of Google's Android allies, Barnes & Noble, in particular seems to be spoiling for a bigger fight with Microsoft. Barnes & Noble has already been sued by Microsoft for its use of Android in its Nook e-readers and tablets and, in reply, Barnes & Noble accused Microsoft of attacking Android with its patent lawsuits.

That's all well and good and all typical of how mobile technology "competition" works in 2011 when those that can't do, sue. Recently though Barnes & Noble has asked the Department of Justice to investigate Microsoft's patent-licensing tactics.

Barnes & Noble said in an October 17 letter to Gene Kimmelman, the Justice Department's (DoJ) chief counsel for competition policy that had been drafted by Peter Barbur, of the law firm Cravath Swaine & Moore, that "Microsoft is embarking on a campaign of asserting trivial and outmoded patents against manufacturers of Android devices. Microsoft is attempting to raise its rivals' costs in order to drive out competition and to deter innovation in mobile devices."

If you think Barnes & Noble and Cravath may be over-reaching, you might want to consider that Cravath hired the DoJ's top anti-trust lawyer, Christine A. Varney, this summer. If they can't put together a creditable case that Microsoft is acting in an illegal anti-competitive matter, I don't know who can.

In another letter, from Barnes & Noble's general counsel Eugene V. DeFelice to James J. Tierney, chief of the DoJ's Networks and Technology Enforcement Section in the Antitrust Division, details Microsoft's method of pushing for a patent-licensing deal. DeFelice wrote that Microsoft accused Barnes & Noble of infringing on six patents at a July 2010 meeting.

"When Barnes & Noble asked Microsoft for more detailed information related to these patents, Microsoft refused, claiming that the information was confidential and could not be shared unless Barnes & Noble first executed a nondisclosure agreement." DeFelice claimed that "Microsoft's assertion of confidentiality is simply a means to cloak its oppressive and anti-competitive licensing proposal and is another element in Microsoft's larger scheme to restrict competition in the mobile operating systems market,"

Microsoft has replied "All modern operating systems include many patented technologies. Microsoft has taken licenses to patents for Windows and we make our patents available on reasonable terms for other operating systems, like Android. We would be pleased to extend a license to Barnes & Noble."

It looks to me like Barnes & Noble, and Android's parent company Google, have no interest in signing up for such a license anytime soon. The Android and mobile IP wars are heating up.

Related Stories:

B&N asks DOJ to investigate Microsoft

World's most profitable Android company? Microsoft!?

Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

Oracle vs. Google Android, Java lawsuit settlement talks will go no-where

Google and Intel Android pairing spells trouble for Microsoft

Topics: Android, Google, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Mobility, Security, Smartphones

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129 comments
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  • hmm

    HMMM SO Basically Google thinks it has the right to copy and steal anyone's innovations? MS, Apple and others put in a lot of R&D... I hope Google has to pay..
    Hasam1991
    • I agree. And I gues B&N feels that what's good for Google

      @Hasam1991
      is good for them -
      "Hey, everybody else is stealing, why not us?"
      William Farrell
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @William Farrell

        You're either delusional, or on M$'s payroll. M$ has one of the worst reputations for stealing other's intellectual property. Stacker Electronics!?!? Or, more recently, I4I!?!? Countless others!?!? M$'s "Hard Work" consists of getting others to take initiative, & then either stiffing that company, or taking from them outright.
        JasePow
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @William Farrell Yeah, all the cool companies are doing it...
        Skippy99
    • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

      @Hasam1991 Empty words without facts to back them up. You drink too much Koolaide.
      timspublic1
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @timspublic1@...
        Well, think of it this way. Microsoft has inked 6 or more deals with VERY large companies around Andriod. These companies get sued EVERY DAY on some patent. They don't sign licensing deals for them every day. So I would trust the lawyers that have a fiduciary responsibility to protect their clients to know better whether there is a good possibility that a patent has been violated than someone with zero knowledge of the patents in question or the conversations had behind closed doors. If there was no merit then believe me, they would not pay the licensing fees.
        ldhudson21
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @timspublic1@... Then maybe YOU can tell us how Android went from a Blackberry clone prior to the release of the original iPhone to a copy of iOS when it was released by Google. And keep in mind that Eric Schmidt - then CEO of Google - was on Apple's board of directors during the development and testing of the original iPhone.
        athynz
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @ldhudson21

        You don't know what you're talking about. Settlement in patent disputes has nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, to do with the merits of the patents in question. And lawyers will advise their clients to settle when it is in the client's best ECONOMIC interests to do so. In tort law these are called nuisance suits. In patent law, these situations are raised to a new and ridiculous level.
        JasePow
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @ldhudson21<br>Companies settle lawsuits and threats of lawsuits all the time. If you are facing $500,000 against yourself or you can pay $10,000 for it go away what are you going to do? You would be stupid not to pay $10,000 if it was going to cost $500,000 and 5 years just to prove your right. Most of these companies don't want to get in to a lawsuit with Microsoft even though Microsoft is 100% wrong. So they pay off the extortion at a lower rate than it costs to fight it. It sucks, it's wrong but it is good business sense to settle or pay up, rather than a long expensive, protracted and distracting lawsuit.<br><br>Personally I think the DoJ should be looking in to some of these lawsuits and threats of lawsuits as anti-competitive and leveraged monopolies by way of crappy patents. Microsoft hasn't changed they just switched to patents rather than browsers and OSes to mess with the industry.
        tim.w.jung
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @Pete "athynz" Athens<br>Perhaps you can tell me why iPhone ripped off Palm in every single possible way but Apple gets a pass but Google doesn't. There is absolutely nothing the iPhone does that Palm didn't do first. Palm got out Palm-ed by Apple because of industrial design and nothing else.
        tim.w.jung
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @ldhudson21: Sorry, but they do. They prefer to avoid costly litigation.
        Natanael_L
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        ldhudson21@... Microsoft has a lot of leverage and "behind closed doors" they could have threatened to raise the windows OEM license if they did not sign. These companies cannot afford to have their pc business become uncompetitive just to support their phone business. Better to just sign and keep selling pcs (at least for now).
        normcf
    • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

      @Hasam1991
      Name one.
      30otnix
    • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

      @Hasam1991

      Show me an innovation they've stolen. And please keep in mind that just because some feature is on an iPhone that does not define it as an innovation, and just because it may also be on an Android that does not mean it was stolen.
      Michael Kelly
    • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

      @Hasam1991 And the poor MS/Apple did not steal anything maybe? Poor corporations... they are obviously not making enough money. Copying is not stealing by the way.
      zelrikriando
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @zelrikriando Xerox start there and work your way up, they've both stolen from there. Get a life and get educated before you post.
        Home Grown IT
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @zelrikriando
        Perhaps someone will eventually tell my why Apple stealing from Palm is ok. There is absolutely nothing the iPhone does or looks like that wasn't done by Palm first.
        tim.w.jung
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @zelrikriando @Home Grown IT

        Actually the in reality Microsoft licensed the technology from Xerox while Apple did not. Xerox then sued Apple at which time they paid up. The truth is much different than the urban tale.
        Skippy99
      • RE: Google and Barnes & Noble get serious about Android patent lawsuits

        @Home Grown IT

        Xerox isn't really the start of that chain. It was going on throughout the 1960's. The Computer Mouse in the late 1960's was a device to make it easier to use such 'Graphical' systems. Digitizers were just getting too clumsy.

        This is like Music, really a long progression, where there are many many 'innovators' who all take the idea from others and push it in a new direction.
        YetAnotherBob
    • Apple and Microsoft have a long history of stealing....

      @Hasam1991 One word: XEROX (which amusingly enough these days tends to mean "copy"). Both Apple and Microsoft "stole" from Xerox long before Google got in the picture. It was ok then, why is it not ok now?
      gavin.bollard