Google hits out at rivals over 'bogus patents'

Customers with Android phones, Reuters The technologies inside smartphones might impinge on more than 250,000 patent claims, says Google

Related Stories

Google has accused rivals Microsoft and Apple of buying up technology patents in a bid to hold back Android.

In a blog post, one of Google's top lawyers accused the firms of using "bogus patents" to crank up the cost of Android-powered devices.

Microsoft hit back saying Google had been invited to bid with it on key patents but turned down the chance.

The statement comes after Google lost several battles over patents covering technology used in handsets.

Weapon test

In the blog post, entitled "When patents attack Android", Google's chief legal officer David Drummond said Android's success had driven its rivals to unite and wage a "hostile, organized campaign" against the mobile operating system.

The conflict was being fought through patents, he said, and paying to licence those patents amounted to a "tax" on Android.

Rivals were seeking to consolidate their position by buying up more patents to stop Google getting hold of them, said Mr Drummond.

In recent months Google has lost auctions for thousands of patents owned by Novell and Nortel, many of which relate to technologies that can be used in smartphones. Ownership of those patents went to consortia made up of many tech firms including Apple and Microsoft.

Start Quote

They should have foreseen this”

End Quote Florian Mueller

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

The blog post drew a swift reaction from Brad Smith, Microsoft's top lawyer, who disputed Mr Drummond's recollection of events.

In a tweet, Mr Smith said: "Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no."

Soon after Frank Shaw, Microsoft's head of communications, tweeted a picture of an email from another Google lawyer Kent Walker which demonstrated that Google had turned down the chance to join its bid on the Novell patents.

Patent expert Florian Mueller said the blog post expressed Google's "frustration" and he added that the fact that Google controlled relatively few patents covering mobile technology had become a "strategic issue".

"The price of Android phones could go up and the other aspect of this is that there could possibly be degradations of the user experience," he said.

While many firms are happy to issue licences for patents they own others do not. Apple, said Mr Mueller, often denies rivals the chance to use the technologies it owns patents for in other devices.

Google alluded to this practice in its blog post saying it was keen for Android to be a "competitive choice". If it is blocked from employing some features then Android devices may be less easy to use than those of more established rivals.

"Google should acquire more patents," said Mr Mueller. "Their big mistake was not to get into the patent buying business. They should have foreseen this."

TechCrunch pointed out that Google's blog post could be related to acquisition target InterDigital which is known to own more than 8,000 patents many of which relate to mobile technologies.

Google is known to be interested in acquiring InterDigital but could face competition from Apple, Microsoft and many others. While Google has billions of dollars on hand to finance its bid for InterDigital, the combined might of its rivals may prove hard to beat.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Technology stories


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreFinal score Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show


  • A cyborg cockroachClick Watch

    The cyborg cockroach – why has a computer been attached to this insect’s nervous system?

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.