Google (NSDQ: GOOG) spoke out in uncharacteristically harsh terms Wednesday regarding the mobile patent proxy wars that Chairman Eric Schmidt proclaimed just weeks ago were not a worry. In a blog post, Google decried the efforts of its competitors in the mobile space to attack Android with “bogus” patents and promised to fight back.
After pointing out the growth of the Android mobile operating system over the past few years, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote that “Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Oracle, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and other companies, waged through bogus patents.” Drummond pointed out the various patent cases that are pending against Google and its Android partners as well as the licensing discussions that are taking place daily in the mobile industry to avoid the threat of legal action.
“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 wrote. The blog post is Google’s strongest response yet to the aftermath of the Nortel patent auction, in which a consortium including Microsoft, Apple, and Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) outbid Google in acquiring around 6,000 patents for $4.5 billion.
In the post, Google suggested that it might be thinking about challenging the validity of the patents being asserted against Android, referring to them as “bogus,” “largely questionable.” and “dubious” during its screed. One of the major problems with the modern patent system is the vagueness of many patents, which can be therefore interpreted in a number of different ways. Many mobile companies, including Google, are looking to bolster their patent portfolios so that if they get sued by a competitor there’s a solid chance they have a patent of their own that reads on a competitor’s product.
Google, of course, has been famously unsuccessful of late adding to its weak patent portfolio, with the big blow coming in early July with the loss of the Nortel patents. More recently, Google is one of the companies that is said to be interested in patent-licensing company Interdigital, along with Apple and Samsung.
“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.” Drummond wrote. “They want to make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices.” Microsoft has readily admitted that a large part of its mobile patent strategy is to convince phone manufacturers that Android isn’t really free, that there is a licensing cost that Microsoft and others are determined to extract.