Google and Microsoft trade blows in public over patents

Google claims that Android rivals are using 'bogus patents' to attack the mobile OS, but Microsoft offers up evidence to suggest that Google dealt itself out of patent discussions.

Yesterday Google's SVP and Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond published a blog post calling attention to how Android rivals are using 'bogus patents' to attack the mobile OS.

It's a strongly-worded attack, claiming that rivals are carrying out 'a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.' To do this these companies are 'banding together to acquire Novell’s old patents ... and Nortel’s old patents' in order to 'to make sure Google didn’t get them' and then 'seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device' in order to 'make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Phone 7.'

Drummond then goes on to attack the way patents are being used:

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

Then Drummond goes on to suggest foul play and anti-competitive behavior:

'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.'

Drummond also hints at Google's plans to counter these attacks:

'We're also looking at other ways to reduce the anti-competitive threats against Android by strengthening our own patent portfolio. Unless we act, consumers could face rising costs for Android devices - and fewer choices for their next phone.'

Strong words, but Microsoft took exception to some of the accusations. First to respond publicly was Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel, who had this to say via Twitter:

Next up was Frank Shaw, Microsoft Head of Communications, who added:

Here Shaw is referring to another Google SVP and General Counsel. Attached to this tweet was this email that Walker had sent to Smith:

Brad -

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you - I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn't be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we're open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.

I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

- Kent

So Google turned down the chance to join forces with Microsoft in a patent deal ... which sort of destroys Google's argument of being cut out of the loop. It seems the search giant dealt itself out of the game.