Microsoft vs. Android

If you can't beat them, sue them.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

It’s pretty clear that Microsoft, a many-time failure at mass-market tablets has decided that if they can’t beat Apple and Android at popular tablets, they’ll sue them instead. That’s my only explanation for Microsoft suing Barnes & Noble, Foxconn, and Inventec over their Android e-readers.

Microsoft, we now know, from Microsoft’s Horacio Gutierrez, Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property & Licensing, that Microsoft was trying to win by litigation even before Microsoft commercially released Windows 7 tablets. Gutierrez wrote, “We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec. Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action.”

Now, I’m no lawyer nor am I a patent expert, but Microsoft’s patents strike me as the kind of bogus software patents that are a perfect example of why software patents are a horrible idea. The patents cover such “patentable” ideas as “Loading Status in a Hypermedia Browser Having a Limited Available Display Area” and “Selection Handles in Editing Electronic Documents.”

Be that as it may, the are currently valid patents and Microsoft will try to use them to gain the money its own tablets will never see. I agree with Pamela Jones, editor of Groklaw, the legal technology site, who describes Microsoft’s motives as “Instead of developing a competing product, they want to just skim off the top from the work of others.” Amen sister.

So, why isn’t Microsoft just suing Google? A legal expert familiar with the situation told me, “Microsoft will bring a series of lawsuits this year in order to tee up the lawsuit it will eventually bring against Google.”

The lawyer continued, “This is just one more step in a patent war that's going--to spread throughout the IT industry. It will be years before it reaches maximum intensity, and years more before the fire begins to die down. Most of this decade will be spent in the fight, which will reduce innovation, destroy tens of billions of dollars in value, and offer a field day to certain non-US competitors. We warned people years ago about this, and now the Free World will be hurt, as everyone will be hurt, by the patent wars resulting from the companies' incautious embrace of state-issued monopolies on ideas.”

I wish they were wrong, but they’re not. Instead of ideas and products, we’re in for years of litigation instead of innovation.

See also:

Editorial standards