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Summary:

If Android’s mounting patent issues are a concern, Google chairman Eric Schmidt isn’t letting on about it. He dismissed the growing patent issues as “legal fun” at a Google mobile event in Tokyo and called out competitors for their propensity to litigate instead of innovate.

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If Android’s mounting patent issues are a concern, Google chairman Eric Schmidt isn’t letting on about it. He dismissed the growing patent issues as “legal fun” at a Google mobile event in Tokyo and called out competitors for their propensity to litigate instead of innovate. 

The comments came after a U.S. International Trade Commission judge ruled on Friday that HTC infringed on two of Apple’s patents, which appear to be part of the core Android operating system. HTC is appealing the decision to the full commission, which will rule in December. But the case has added more pressure on Google’s Android platform, which is also being pursued by Oracle and Microsoft. Schmidt, for his part, said all the hubbub is built off of jealousy.

“We have seen an explosion of Android devices entering the market and, because of our successes, competitors are responding with lawsuits as they cannot respond through innovations,” he said. “I’m not too worried about this.”

When asked about delivering help to HTC and possibly paying bills should HTC lose, Schmidt pledged general support for its partner and added: “We will make sure they don’t lose, then.”

It’s not surprising that Schmidt is dismissing concerns around Android though some might take issue with the claim that competitors such as Apple aren’t innovating. But there are growing worries about how much it will cost Android manufacturers to use the freely licensed operating system once all the different cases get resolved. Microsoft has struck licensing deals with a handful of Android manufacturers including HTC, while Oracle is suing Google and may be looking for a big settlement from Google or its hardware partners. And Apple may not be looking for royalties at all from HTC, Motorola and others, but might be content to ban Android products or force costly workarounds. Google recently also lost out on a big treasure trove of 6,000 Nortel patents, which could have helped with cross-licensing deals but were instead snatched up by a consortium led by Apple, Microsoft and Research in Motion.

Android’s legal issues are reportedly prompting some Asian manufacturers to reassess their mobile platform options. According to the 21st Century Business Herald, Chinese hardware makers ZTE and Huawei are looking more at strategies that include enhancing support for Windows Phone 7 to protect themselves from Android’s alleged patent infringements. There’s also some interest in MeeGo as another alternative. I doubt anyone’s abandoning Android at this point but it suggests that at least some manufacturers are using these recent developments as an opportunity to re-examine their platform bets.

It’s still early in the game and Google hasn’t done much to articulate how it plans to fight on behalf of Android. But I would expect it would ramp up its efforts to maintain its Android success story. For Google, it’s important for the company to gain big market share with Android because it helps it sell ads while obtaining valuable data from mobile users. So I expect we’ll see more actions to follow up Schmidt’s words. If the legal issues continue to mount, Google won’t have any choice but to get involved.

  1. The irony of this is that Google itself will be forced to innovate, instead of copying Apple in certain areas, which will be best for the consumer. Apple’s suing is a defensive move for Herself, indicating her vulnerability in the future to multi-manufacturers of a powerful Android 4 and beyond.

  2. i find these patent suits ridiculous, i understand that someone would want to protect what is legally theirs, on the other hand, the core of android OS is android, cause they copied a few capabilities does not make the system an infringment. Its like the case with Microsoft, you cant pre load a web page without paying royalties to them, because they came up with the idea first. All these infringement suits only stiffle innovation, i mean would a browser be worth anything if the page didnt show up until after the entire thing was loaded. No. I would stick to internet explorer. The thing is i dont want an I phone. I dont want to use internet explorer, i like Oracle, but googles products are better written, even though some of the technology is now owned, not created by Oracle. I respect those that have innovated us to the point to where we are in technology, but to stifle innovation by pointless infringement suits, only makes us as the consumer suffer. If apple owned every technology up to this point, no body would create, cause there is no money to be made. We as the consumer would then be having to pay lets say a 1,000 dollars for a phone, when if competition was actually taking place, which is required “by law” then we get 600 dollar phones. Im pretty sure Apple sued Microsoft for that very thing, becoming an monopoly, they need to take a look at their code of ethics, cause they are acting like a flippin bully. I used to respect apple and microsoft for their innovation, but now they are just being profit mongers. Google needs to step up and get a judge on their side. I like the android OS, i dont want to see it fall behind, simply because apple and microsoft dont like the competition. I dont want manufacturers to consider other alternatives, cause to be honest, it will be a step back for the industry that isnt running iOS. Im done with apple in my book. You were the underdog, and that was a great success story, you have lost that mentality, and someone needs to unseat you, so you can reevaluate your business principles.

  3. Google is acting like some kind of patent Robin Hood because their most important innovations – search algorithms, bleeding edge database systems, etc. – sit in black boxes that only their most priviledged engineers can truly see the inner workings of. Tell them to open source BigTable if you really want to see their stance on open competition. Apple is at a disadvantage because users (and competitors) can touch and see a lot of their most important innovations – carefully calibrated user interface conventions, hardware designs, screen layouts, etc. that they optimized at great expense over the course of years – and can thus reverse-engineer them.

    Software patents can be highly problematic, but they also CAN motivate innovative companies to create new/lifechanging products. I think we all benefit when creative companies (not patent trolls) have the promise of a “premium” to incentivize user-facing innovations.

    1. I hardly think something of BigTable nature is something i was referring to. Much of Google’s tools are open source and open to developers. It like Coca Cola. Coca Cola doesnt stop people from making soda pop, but they have their secrets, much like apple, only Coca Cola doesnt sue when they put sugar in the thing. But if Coca Cola released their secret ingredients, then it wouldnt be Coca Cola anymore. The same as BigTable is to Google. Setting a time table for Android to remove patent infringements would be a much more ethical way of getting things done, not demanding money from Phone manufacturers. That shows nothing but greed.

      1. Excellent analogy Coca-Cola. Most patent lawsuits involve being sued for using water or sugar in cola. Not for anything infringing the real secret formula. In the first place, it sucks that patents were granted for adding sugar and water.

  4. Calling cards Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    This is a real problem. I just google managed it efficiently.

  5. It’s funny how Schmidt likes to prevaricate. He’s forgetting that Android is nothing more than a copy of iPhone.

    Before iPhone was announced, Android looked like a copy of BlackBerry but after iPhone announcement, they started copying iPhone.

    Anyway, it looks like manufactures are now not as keen on using “free” (LOL) and “opensource” (LOL) Android anymore and are moving over to Mongo.

  6. Google has absolutely nothing to worry about, biggest problem for Apple/MS & others is that they simply waited to long to start suing. obviously this was because at 1st Android was a flop so nobody was scared, but now after it’s unprecedented rise to the top mobile platform they are desperate to stop it.

    so why doesn’t Google have anything to fear? it’s simple, at over half-million devices sold a day absolutely NO modern government is going to step in & stop it. some of you guys who really think this will happen clearly have no idea how government works. Google knows this, so does everybody else, all they can hope for now is a small percentage of device sales.

    anybody stating that other manufactures are considering abandoning the biggest mobile platform on the planet for a certified flop like WP7 has absolutely no credibility. MS best chance now is W8-ARM on tablets because they blew it on phones. this isn’t the 90’s anymore & people don’t buy phones because it says “Nokia” on them. in MODERN times people buy phones because they say “Apple” or “Android” and recognize the OS underneath. Nokia has no weight, WP has no weight, in a couple years we will all be looking back at what a flop the merger was.

  7. Why don’t tech reporters report on the actual patents involved and perhaps highlight the absurdity of most of them?

    Didn’t Apple lose a patent suite very recently that involved copying a playlist from one device to another?

    Most patents are absurd and this being a tech blog I would like to see more effort being put into highlighting this please.

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