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Google claims 'bogus patent' conspiracy against Android

Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle in 'hostile, organized campaign'

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Google chief legal officer David Drummond has claimed that Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, and other companies have waged a "hostile, organized campaign" against Google's Android operating system using "bogus patents".

"I have worked in the tech sector for over two decades. Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what's going on," Drummond said on Wednesday in a blog post.

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

Drummond backed his claim by pointing out that Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle are part of a consortium of companies that purchased hundreds of patents from the Linux-happy Novell, and that Microsoft and Apple joined forces behind another consortium to win Nortel's patent portfolio, which Google also attempted to purchase.

There has been no public indication that Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle intend to use the Novell patents specifically to attack Android – though the DoJ did rejig the patent sale in an effort to preserve the viability of open source software and Linux in general – and Oracle was not part of the bidding for the Nortel patents. Oracle has filed its own lawsuit against Google over the use of Java in Android, but we're not sure what this has to do with Apple and Microsoft.

The Google man also pointed out that Microsoft has (allegedly) demanded that Samsung pay $15 patent licensing fees for each Android phone it sells and that Redmond is suing Samsung and other companies that manufacture or sell Android devices, including Barnes & Noble, HTC, and Motorola. We're not sure what Apple and Oracle have to do with what can only be described as expected Microsoft behavior.

Nonetheless, Drummond is adamant that three of Google's primary rivals have somehow joined forces to destroy Android. We asked Google if Drummond has any hard evidence of an "organized campaign" against Android by Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle, but the company has yet to respond.

From where we're sitting, it merely appears that three large public companies are each gathering patents and wielding lawsuits in an effort to boost their respective bottom lines. That Drummond seems so shocked by this is rather amusing. He has worked in the tech sector for over two decades. He must realize that this is the way things work.

Nor should he be surprised that Apple and Microsoft would join forces when it suits them. After all, Microsoft saved Apple from the brink of extinction. And even Google has been known to lock hands with Microsoft when it feels the need.

In any event, Drummond argues – in predictable fashion – that Google's rivals are taking money from the world's consumers. "A smartphone might involve as many as 250,000 (largely questionable) patent claims, and our competitors want to impose a 'tax' for these dubious patents that makes Android devices more expensive for consumers," he says. "They want to make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices. Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation."

And the ultimate point of Drummond's blog post is that Google intends to push back against Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle, saying the company is looking into other ways of strengthening Google's own patent portfolio.

"We’re not naive; technology is a tough and ever-changing industry and we work very hard to stay focused on our own business and make better products," he says. "But in this instance we thought it was important to speak out and make it clear that we’re determined to preserve Android as a competitive choice for consumers, by stopping those who are trying to strangle it."

But it's not much of a point. This too is merely expected behavior from a large public company. And it's the least Google owes to the countless manufacturers who have adopted Android.

We would also add that Nortel's portfolio spanned over 6,000 patents, that Novell unloaded several hundred more, and that Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle already own who knows how many other patents in this area. Calling the lot "bogus" is a bold statement indeed. ®

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