How much patent trouble is Google really in

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.

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TOPICS: Google, Legal
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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

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  • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

    Actually, while I appreciate Florian's posts, I believe that they are a little bit too.. one-sided (of course, he probably believes that mine are mine are one-sided too). The problem of patents is not actually very specific to Android; MS has lots of patent lawsuits, as did Apple, Nokia, Motorola, RIM and many before them. As you rightly mention, patents at the moment fail the mousetrap test - and are mostly done as fighting weapons, not to defend or spur innovation.
    As for the copyright claims, they are more specific. I already wrote about them, and I have actually find out that at least the code in annex J mentioned by Oracle *never* appeared in phones, but was only distributed through the GIT web interface. It remains to be seen whether there are other infractions (this was actually a licensing infraction, done probably through an inaccurate tree import that contained decompiled java code.
    Some of my readers mentioned that this can come from IBM's J9 virtual machine code, but of course it is difficult to prove.
    cdaffara@...
    • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

      @cdaffara@... Thanks for writing. I appreciate your points. I think copyright issues are a lot more important than I believed when I took this beat and hope to write about them more.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • It isn't always possible to "innovate" around a hardware

    patent. Witness Xerox and the photocopier. So, Meuller's argument is flawed from the beginning.

    It will be interesting to see if Google can slime their way out of their software copyright infringement the same way they did with their massive print copyright infringements. In a just world, that disgusting theft should have put them out of business.
    frgough
    • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

      @frgough You're missing your own point. Xerox patented its version of a photocopier, not the whole idea of photocopying. Software patents control not just how something is done, but the fact of its being done.

      Your dislike of Google should draw a response. I'd like to see it expanded upon. Their Google Books offer gives orphan works new life. If publishers can't monetize copyrights, should they be denying even the possibility to others?
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • Google may not need a patent stash ...

    Defensive patents are not the only thing useful to litigation, having lots of money also helps. Of course, Oracle also has plenty of funding. But the fact that Google itself is not patent heavy could be a good thing. It might mean that Google would be more aggressive in challenging the concept of software patents themselves. Part of the strength of software patents is that fact that well heeled defendants in software patent cases usually DO have their own patent portfolio and thus are loathe to in any way challenge the legitimacy of software patents as a class. There is just a slim possibility that Google may do this and may do it with a ferocity as to achieve results. That would change the whole playing field and finally release all sorts of sea changing technologies like Android.
    George Mitchell
    • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

      @George Mitchell Money did not avail Microsoft much when they were put upon by patent trolls, right up until they began stockpiling their own patents after 2000.

      Money did not avail RIM against NTP either.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

        @DanaBlankenhorn That has to be the two worst examples you could have provided. Come on it's common knowledge Microsoft made all of their money by theft, deception, lawyers, and now by buying the work of competitors with the proceeds of their ill gotten gains. Google on the other hand has worked for every dime they've made while trolls like Ellison try to openly steal those efforts. Yet instead of media showing him as the cretin he is, he's made out to be some kind of crusader for justice. Gimme a break.
        blueskip
      • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

        @blueskip
        "it's common knowledge Microsoft made all of their money by theft, deception, lawyers, and now by buying the work of competitors with the proceeds of their ill gotten gains. Google on the other hand has worked for every dime they've made..."

        Have you EVER taken the time to look at Google's acquisition profile? Most of the "innovation" you accredit Google with has been acquired from someone else's hard work... either by buying them up or simply by copying them. The last thing they actually "innovated" was their search engine... or maybe new ways to mine your personal info for monetary gains.
        kaninelupus
      • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

        @kaninelupus We'll just have to agree to disagree. I don't seen any of what you claim.
        blueskip
        • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

          @kaninelupus We'll just have to agree to disagree. I don't see any of what you claim. And f you for claiming this is spam you little s--t.
          blueskip
  • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

    Why should software patents be any different that other patents? If something is patented and you make it better, then there is no lawsuit. This needs to be applied to software, namely anything open sourced.
    trust2112@...
    • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

      @trust2112@... It's not. That's why I created the mousetrap test (or sought to popularize it), as a way of making the issue understandable.

      Thanks for writing.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • The community can have a say in this

    I am not a big fan of Google, having worked around them for some time now I find that they are an arrogant bunch and probably overdue for a bloody nose like this, but at least Google promotes innovation where as Oracle stifles innovation.

    Oracle doesn't really care about people that use open source but they do care about the customer base, stop using anything that they have purchased and have some intellectual rights to. I have done this for a while now and there are alternatives. If you are using Java and are profitable, just how long do you think it will take for you to show up on Oracle's radar as Google did? Google certainly thought that they were safe, can you afford to make the same mistake? If no one wanted to play with Oracle they might get the hint.
    balsover
    • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

      @balsover We have Google here as a additional toolset to Office 2010. And your 100% correct "...they are an arrogant bunch..." and dead on. Customer service is very much lacking. They learn or burn.
      ItsTheBottomLine
      • Is there even a comparison between Apps and Office2010?

        @ItsTheBottomLine <br>Is there even a comparison between Apps and Office 2010 from a user empowerment perspective? Disregarding Google's arrogance, lack of service and non-listening to customer's requests - I can't see any innovation beyond Search. For example look at the Excel 2010 PowerPivot, Slicers, In-cell visualisations. That's innovation for productivity.
        hubivedder
  • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

    The excessively senior thinking at Oracle is putting their company at risk for the next generation of customers. At least Apple has maintained their youthful developer community support.

    Oracle may learn a hard lesson on this one as more developers worldwide move to open source forks to avoid the reach of Oracle. In some ways Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple are aligned against Google/Android/Open Source, but it is hard enough to bully your way in the USA, let alone in China, India, Africa and other countries which will lead the future in population/economic/technology growth.

    It has been said that aging organizations (and people) often suffer from short-sighted decision making, but Oracle doesn't have to repeat the lessons of other ill-fated companies because it does have the option to innovate and also clean up their massive acquired portfolio of loosely integrated products.
    Ron Anon
  • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

    It may be worthwhile for Google to go the legislative route.
    In other words, use political pull to fight the very concept of software patents as being far to generic. Ever since the concept of one click was patented I've had nothing but contempt for that process. One click = using a cookie to skip a process. Well, duh. I've used that for years to simply check a cookie at the top of each page and if it was not set, then I sent the viewer to a sign in page. Knowing who a user is and taking short cuts was NOT an innovation then, nor is it now, yet it was granted a patent. So, either the patent granters are simply stupid, the process of review flawed, or likely it never should exist in the first place.
    richard233
    • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

      @richard233 I think i go for "it never should have existed in the first place"
      dwun
    • RE: How much patent trouble is Google really in

      @richard233 I agree WHOLE heartedly.
      blueskip
  • At it again Dana? Running out of ideas is not an excuse

    to just 'sensationalize' with a post like this.

    Folks, you can really get an objective appraisal of what is or isn't happening on a blow-by-blow basis with Oracle v. Google by simply bookmarking:

    http://www.groklaw.net

    More often than not Dana's writing of late is 'superficial' and misleading.

    Pamela Jones will give the straight story on all matters litigious and she knows open source, unlike you Dana.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate