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Google Accuses Competitors of Abusing Patents Against Android

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 years ago | from the the-plot-thickens dept.

Android 294

Hugh Pickens writes "Bloomberg reports that Google has accused Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle of waging a 'hostile, organized campaign' against Android by purchasing patents to keep them out of Google's hands and to make it more expensive for handset makers to use Android. '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,' writes David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer. Android's success has resulted in a 'hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.'" Microsoft has responded, saying they offered to bid jointly with Google on the Nortel patents, but Google refused. Some think Google is being hypocritical with their stance on patents changing now that Android appears to infringe on a bunch.

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Seriously (5, Insightful)

zget (2395308) | about 3 years ago | (#36984376)

So Microsoft, Apple and Oracle wanted Google to join them and jointly bid with them, allowing access to the patents for everyone. Google didn't join, and lost the bidding when they tried to get it all for themselves. Who is the real hostile company here?

Re:Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984396)

Something tells me there's a bit more to this than just.. that.

Re:Seriously (3, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 3 years ago | (#36984438)

I tend to agree. Here's one possibility that comes to mind: "Hey Google, do you want to be our friend? We don't really need your coffers to guarantee we get these patents, but if you chip in, and as long as you pursue the same legal cases with us against our other competitors, you and yours will be safe."

I would pretend I'm being cynical, but this one seems like a no-brainer. There were strings attached to that patent deal, Google knew it, and did the Right Thing, even though it's going to suck, like getting dunked in the toilet every day after school for the next twenty years.

Re:Seriously (2)

zget (2395308) | about 3 years ago | (#36984554)

I would pretend I'm being cynical, but this one seems like a no-brainer. There were strings attached to that patent deal, Google knew it, and did the Right Thing,

Seriously, why? Google isn't the same geeky company it was 10 years ago. They do heavy marketing but play the "we're good guys" really well (which is more so worrying). Just because they started as a geeky company (Microsoft, Apple and Oracle all did too) doesn't mean they aren't like just any business now.

Re:Seriously (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984830)

google is still a geeky company, i mean what non geek access wifi hotspots in your home just to see if they can while they drive thier self driving vehicles in your nieghbor hood to take pictures...i mean really u think a non geek would do that?

Re:Seriously (1)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | about 3 years ago | (#36984872)

That could be. But have you ever seen Google sue anyone for patent infringement? I think that Google just didn't want to hold bloody hands with Apple, Microsoft and Oracle.

Re:Seriously (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984434)

Could you possibly be mixing up the Novell and Nortel bids, like ~ 80% of the "commentators" today?

Original blog was about the latter, aka Rockstar Bidco. MS rebuttal referred to the former.

And for the Gruber analysis : arch fanboi rant, yawn. iShiny make it all better.

Re:Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984828)

The Gruber rant is a contortion, which is kind of sad give the intellectual dishonesty of the google rant. Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle aren't sitting in a room plotting ("organizing") to destroy Google with patents. Microsoft's bread and butter is license fees and they don't care how they get it. Apple's lawsuits are to prevent copying, not a money grab. Oracle's java lawsuit is unrelated to everything else.

There does seem to be a patent bubble and software patent reform is desperately needed. Google could publicly lobby for reform, instead they're helping inflate the bubble while bitching about the consequences and the other participants.

Re:Seriously (2)

shmlco (594907) | about 3 years ago | (#36984894)

To quote, "Seemingly sick of being continuously slapped in the face by the patent issue, Google’s SVP and Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, wrote a blog post calling out several of Google’s rivals for attempting to use “bogus patents” to destroy Android. Chief among the rivals called out was Microsoft. Drummond noted that the software giant had been getting in bed with other rivals to hurt Google.

Among the accusations was that Microsoft teamed up with Apple to buy Novell’s old patents, implying that they did so in order to keep them away from Google.

Microsoft didn’t take too kindly to that remark. “Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no,” Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel tweeted out in response."

http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/03/microsoft-just-kicked-google-in-the-nuts/ [techcrunch.com]

Re:Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984454)

Look at those first 3 companies. A little bit large don't you think? All of them could have bought these patents with their pocket change. Why would they team up like this? Because Google is a threat to all of them. They want to take Google down and out of the mobile space.

Don't you find that a little bit disconcerting, even if you are a fanboi? No competition means no market to encourage competetive pricing, and near stagnation of products.

Re:Seriously (2)

zget (2395308) | about 3 years ago | (#36984590)

Look at those first 3 companies. A little bit large don't you think? All of them could have bought these patents with their pocket change. Why would they team up like this?

And you say Google isn't a large company and doesn't have money? Have you looked at their finances lately?

Yes, all of them could had gone to bidding war with each other. For reason or another they looked at it and thought it was better to share the bidding costs and the patents with each other. They wanted to share them with others. Google wanted them all for themself.

Re:Seriously (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 years ago | (#36984676)

Why would they team up like this?

Because then they guarantee that they get them and because they can get them for less individually if they only pay 1/3. Oh, and as for 'pocket change', the winning bid was $5.4 billion. That's not pocket change for any of the companies concerned. Google wants their competitors to pay a couple of billion dollars each to prevent the patents going to patent trolls and then allow Google to use them for free.

Mind you, last I read a US senator costs about $200,000, and a representative about $50,000. It would have been cheaper for Google to just throw $30m at bribing, sorry, lobbying, congress to ban software patents. Even at $1m/congressman it would have been cheaper...

Re:Seriously (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | about 3 years ago | (#36984796)

The starting cost for that senator is $200k. But it's an auction, remember? You still have to bid more than the people who want to keep things the way they are.

Re:Seriously (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 years ago | (#36984864)

Actually, the $200K was the average winning bid in the study I saw. It was the amount paid by lobbyists of companies that got favourable legislation passed. Would other companies be willing to bid more than $1M to keep software patents? I'm not sure anyone is actually benefitting from them at the moment. They had a nice MAD strategy set up to keep out small players, but then someone launched theirs and now each of the big players is likely to pay lawyers millions of dollars to avoid losing billions of dollars.

Re:Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984468)

Or the terms weren't quite...correct. For example did they guarantee not to sue third parties over Android and ChromeOS, did they gurantee to use patents only defensively? Probably not. I don't think Google would accept such terms. Especially not with companies that use other patents to attack their business.

Re:Seriously (5, Interesting)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 3 years ago | (#36984802)

Others have pointed out that there may be something more involved, but I haven't seen anyone point out what I think is the real issue. And that is, AFAIK, most companies aren't suing Google directly. They are suing the third-party makers of Android phones. If Google had joined in the bid, they wouldn't have sole rights to the patents, and, depending on the terms, might well not have been able to license them to the actual phone makers, whom the other three would still have been able to sue. So Google would have been able to make Android smartphones, but no one else would have been able to. Google doesn't really care to make phones themselves, the whole point of Android is that third-parties make all the actual phones. That may well not have been able to happen had they joined the cartel.

Re:Seriously (2)

ilguido (1704434) | about 3 years ago | (#36984866)

Google released Android for free: if Google had joined M$, Apple and Oracle, it would extort money from all the companies that use android (like M$ does), thus negating its own declared purpose.

Re:Seriously (1)

deathguppie (768263) | about 3 years ago | (#36984954)

Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle are already suing Google, and or Manufacturers using Android. Joining a consortium with those same companies won't help Google in it's struggle to defend itself against legal threats from the very companies whom they would be partnering with.

None of the Nortel patents would have done Google any good as a defensive weapon against Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle if they too were part owners in the patents. I wouldn't have put a dime into them.

Re:Seriously (1)

C_Kode (102755) | about 3 years ago | (#36984986)

So Microsoft, Apple and Oracle wanted Google to join them and jointly bid with them, allowing access to the patents for everyone. Google didn't join, and lost the bidding when they tried to get it all for themselves. Who is the real hostile company here?

That isn't what happen. MS wanted to bid with Google on the Nortel patents which Google obtained. MS, Apple and Oracle bought a *different* patent portfolio as a group to use against Android.

Re:Seriously (2)

boilednut (1245008) | about 3 years ago | (#36985044)

Google wanted to purchase the patents as a defensive measure to forestall litigation. So, joining with Microsoft and Apple to buy them would defeat the purpose -- since they are the two principal companies Google would like to defend against.

Re:Seriously (1)

Idbar (1034346) | about 3 years ago | (#36985260)

The ramifications of this seem larger. My first thought is, if they have a pool of patents, then no-one has any advantage over the others and the one with more "outsider" patents will still lead the parade.

Google wants to buy patents so they can trade the use of such patents. Agreeing to pay altogether with a pool of companies, means Google has no advantage whatsoever and "patent-all" companies like Apple or MS will still have that advantage that will cause Google to owe them money.

So, If I were Google, why would I help them to pay billions for a set of patents that will not help my cause? Instead, I bid against them, and raise dramatically the price of the patents, and see what the law thinks about it. Best result, would be that Google lobbies a patent law reform and lowers the cost of those patents.

Corporate Propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984416)

"Article" not worth reading. Move along.

There's a reason why most Slashdotters don't read the article - 90% aren't worth reading.

Re:Corporate Propaganda (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 3 years ago | (#36984702)

Even if they did, they think patents are just six words long.

Re:Corporate Propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985016)

you mean:

"System and method to do trivial stuff"

Here's a tissue. (1, Insightful)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 3 years ago | (#36984422)

It was an auction, and you got outbid. If Nortel wasn't a dying (dead) company, you would have still had to license / work around any of these patents, so what's the difference?

Re:Here's a tissue. (1)

iserlohn (49556) | about 3 years ago | (#36984482)

It looks like Google made a principled stance. Looking at their bidding history (Pi???) it seems to have been their strategy all along.

Re:Here's a tissue. (5, Insightful)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 3 years ago | (#36984592)

Well, they can take their principled stance and use pi * $1B on lobbyists to get Congress to actually reform the patent system. Thanks to that wonderful supreme court decision that allows corporations to spend just as much money as they want on political free speech, Google could put it out there that any congress critter that is serious about reforming the USPTO gets $10M in the war chest in the form of 509(c) sponsored direct mail flyers, online advertisement, television advertisement, etc.

218 seats in the US house = $2.18B
60 seats in the US Senate = $600M (gotta get that cloture motion, after all)

We're not even to pi * $1B yet...

Re:Here's a tissue. (1)

macshit (157376) | about 3 years ago | (#36985102)

Well, they can take their principled stance and use pi * $1B on lobbyists to get Congress to actually reform the patent system.

Of course if they did that, Apple, MS, Oracle, and other patent-abusers, would royally freak out and start throwing money in the opposite direction, trying to keep the patent system in it's current broken state. There'd end up being an awful lot of rich congressmen, but I'm not sure much else would change...

Re:Here's a tissue. (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | about 3 years ago | (#36985124)

To be fair.. they just have to offer that to the first 110 reps, and 51 senators that will claim it. Wow.. I just saved them $1.4B, I should ask for a bonus, or better yet, patent that business method!
method of contributing to a number of 509(c) sponsored entities in a way to maximize the opportunity cost of said contribution

Re:Here's a tissue. (1)

sydneyfong (410107) | about 3 years ago | (#36984608)

Bidding with famous mathematical constants is a principled stance of what?

Of being against patents?
Of being nerdy?
Of trying to make a big fuss about losing the bid?

Re:Here's a tissue. (2)

Riceballsan (816702) | about 3 years ago | (#36984610)

Perhaps due to the threat level of the companies history, Nortel as far as I know wasn't known for looking for any and every possible way any of their hundreds of patents could have a chance in court of lining up with something their competitors had. Apple and Microsoft on the other hand, are going to look at every way they can possibly use these patents to find one that overlaps, and then get the best judge they can to sink android into the ground.

Re:Here's a tissue. (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 3 years ago | (#36984654)

Not disagreeing, but looking at the fate of Nortel purely from a hypothetical shareholder perspective, maybe they should have...

Re:Here's a tissue. (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 3 years ago | (#36984666)

The difference is that Nortel would likely not be seeing the Android as competition that needs to be stopped, and would negotiate a license on a reasonable and fair basis. At least some of the others are highly suspect at wanting to do so, either because the end product represents competition, or represents a furtherance of certain technology ideas they dislike (e.g. that source is open).

not a great plot twist (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 3 years ago | (#36984440)

I appreciate the need to spice things up with novel plotlines, but in this kind of scenario you really want clear sides, so that spectators can rally around their favorite team. It's okay if it's subject, so some people pick the "Apple good!" side and others then "Google good!" side. But you've still got to keep the lines reasonable or it's not really conductive to building a fanbase.

Also, someone should print up some shirts that read, "No war but the patent war!"

Reform (2)

Yaddoshi (997885) | about 3 years ago | (#36984442)

Reform of...a bucket of water! Shape of...a patent troll slaying sword! Sorry...lack of coffee does strange things to my mind this early in the day.

Re:Reform (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | about 3 years ago | (#36984908)

Wonder Twin powers...ACTIVATE!!

Google should take the only sane stance on this (5, Interesting)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#36984446)

That being, stopping wasting their money on buying patents, and using their considerable amount of cash to push the elimination of software patents. Just imagine the amount of money and bullshit that would get saved long term.

Re:Google should take the only sane stance on this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984490)

Evil or not, right now Google seems to be the only company that has the power (aka cash) to fight back the software patent trolls and force for a major restructure of the US Software Patent legislation

Re:Google should take the only sane stance on this (1)

AtomicJake (795218) | about 3 years ago | (#36984566)

That being, stopping wasting their money on buying patents, and using their considerable amount of cash to push the elimination of software patents.

Best post ever!

Re:Google should take the only sane stance on this (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 3 years ago | (#36984760)

Exactly. And quite honestly Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and the rest of them should join in too. Heck, when you look at it what all the software companies say about software patents is they only patent it so other people can't use it against them and sue.

Patents have fast become obsolete. The original purpose of increasing knowledge has long since been accomplished.

Re:Google should take the only sane stance on this (1)

nickysn (750668) | about 3 years ago | (#36985066)

The problem is large corporations that have a lot of patents still get a benefit from them. They can collect revenue and sue competitors that only have a small amount of patents. As for competitors who also have a lot of patents, they usually sign a cross-licensing deal, so both sides don't sue each other over their patents (which would cause mutual destruction). So by definition large corporations, who have a lot of patents, mostly avoid the negative effects of the software patent system and only get the benefits. The only exception are patent trolls, which even large corporations cannot avoid, but they probably figured out the benefits still outweigh the losses.

Will PageRank be opensourced (1, Interesting)

alinuxguruofyore (1117973) | about 3 years ago | (#36984448)

Google is being hypocritcal here. If they opensource their propietary technology maybe I will believe them. Now, it looks like crocodile tears.

Re:Will PageRank be opensourced (1, Informative)

characterZer0 (138196) | about 3 years ago | (#36984572)

Copyright and patents are different issues with different ramifications.

Also, if they document PageRank, it will make it easier to game and reduce the quality of their product.

Re:Will PageRank be opensourced (0, Flamebait)

sydneyfong (410107) | about 3 years ago | (#36985184)

You're a pathetic Google apologist.

Patents are required to be documented in public records. This is the patent file for PageRank [uspto.gov]

So, while Google is complaining that their competitors are using "evil" patents against them, you're saying that they themselves decided to patent PageRank, even at the cost of reducing the quality of their product?

What a great company with strong moral principles.

Re:Will PageRank be opensourced (1)

scumdamn (82357) | about 3 years ago | (#36984656)

Are you fucking serious or is this a semi clever troll? PageRank???

Re:Will PageRank be opensourced (1, Informative)

gmuslera (3436) | about 3 years ago | (#36984714)

The topic here is android, that is opensource, is given for free to phone manufacturers. But because of all the patents helds by all those companies whatever that tries to install that open source in their hardware gets sued and have to pay extra a lot for that opensource technology. And considering how much broken is the patent system now, those 250k patents could not let you stay within a mile of a cellphone without breaking a bunch of them for things like breathing or just existing.

Regarding PageRank, why it in particular should be? Is basically an internal app with a public api. Some public apps from google got open sourced, like Wave (even before the launch, when everyone thought that it could be a major player in social networks). And they didnt sued Microsoft for using the "search" word in the same planet where Google is as basically the patents attacking android are doing regarding cellphones.

Some? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984450)

Some think Google is being hypocritical with their stance on patents changing now that Android appears to infringe on a bunch.

Some? Some would say it's a whole lot more than just some who think Google is being hypocritical.

To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (3, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | about 3 years ago | (#36984462)

Microsoft has responded, saying they offered to bid jointly with Google on the Nortel patents, but Google refused.

Hey Microsoft, could you please throw some light as to how Google's joint purchase of these patents with you would help Google fend off patent lawsuits from the likes of yourself, Apple and the rest?

Google wanted these patents for defensive purposes [blogspot.com] . Therefore Google's teaming up with folks like Apple and Microsoft, who would like to see Android fail would be plain stupid in my opinion.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (1)

alinuxguruofyore (1117973) | about 3 years ago | (#36984504)

Google wanted these patents for defensive purposes.

Why would Google need to purchase these patents for defensive purposes if they were not already infringing upon these patents?

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (2)

jeti (105266) | about 3 years ago | (#36984576)

With these patents, they could threaten to countersue Apple and MS and get good settlements.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about 3 years ago | (#36984616)

Here's why:

The point is not whether they are infringing or not. They, (Google), like everyone else in the technology sector, is infringing on someone's patent.

Had Google gotten these patents, any patent troll or company would have to think twice before suing Google. I am sure you know this. That explains the defensive part. Now, next question please.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984730)

Patent trolls don't make anything so they can't be fended off with defensive patents, unless you happen to have obtained a business method patent for patent trolling. This is why patent trolls are more of a problem than MS, Google, Apple, Oracle, ... who actually do something with their patents.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984874)

Go ask anyone being sued by Lodsys about patent trolls and defense.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 years ago | (#36985012)

That hardly means these patents are worth anything. The fact is that the bulk of the patents in question are garbage patents.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (2)

Dachannien (617929) | about 3 years ago | (#36984746)

Had Google gotten these patents, any patent troll ... would have to think twice before suing Google.

That's the thing about patent trolls. They don't produce any products, so they don't infringe on any patents, which means that suing someone is largely a risk-free proposition.

It's a little like terrorists with nukes. Mutually-assured destruction no longer serves as a deterrent: whom do we nuke back?

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 3 years ago | (#36985052)

Unless there's a patent on patent trolling, patent trolls don't infringe on any patents because they don't do anything other than sue.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 3 years ago | (#36984678)

Possibly because figuring out if you're infringing on 10,000+ patents is not an easy thing to do, and if you believe you are not doesn't mean you won't find yourself in a shitstorm of legal briefs while people strongarm you for money. Look at the stuff going on with Oracle and Google. Oracle are really scraping the bottom of the barrel yet they're going on for the pay day. Now imagine Microsoft (and new best friend Nokia), Apple, HP and whoever else doing the same.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984526)

Are you serious? If they bought that set of patents with Microsoft, then they would either own or be licensed as a member of that patent pool... So obviously at least those patents can't be used against Google. Did you really need an explanation for that?

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (1)

robmv (855035) | about 3 years ago | (#36984686)

HTC, Motorola, Samsung are not Google, so probably the terms only told that teh bidding group will not sue themselves, but what about others?

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984600)

Microsoft has responded, saying they offered to bid jointly with Google on the Nortel patents, but Google refused.

Hey Microsoft, could you please throw some light as to how Google's joint purchase of these patents with you would help Google fend off patent lawsuits from the likes of yourself, Apple and the rest?

Google wanted these patents for defensive purposes [blogspot.com] . Therefore Google's teaming up with folks like Apple and Microsoft, who would like to see Android fail would be plain stupid in my opinion.

Wow. You read it on the intertubes, so it MUST be true!

Credulous. Look it up. It fits you.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (1, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 3 years ago | (#36984740)

because if they owned the damn things they can't be sued for violating them.

Surely that is simply fucking obvious.

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (3, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | about 3 years ago | (#36984976)

Aquiring these patents with Apple, M$ and the like would not prevent Google from being sued for 'infringing' on *other* patents by these very companies, (emphasis mine). Owning these patents exclusively would potentially deter any company from suing. What's so hard to understand about this?

Re:To M$: Your point is irrelevant in this context (2)

jkflying (2190798) | about 3 years ago | (#36985058)

Yeah, but Samsung, Motorola and HTC don't own them.

Ulterior Motives? (5, Interesting)

Grave (8234) | about 3 years ago | (#36984474)

I really don't think a company with as many bright people as Google would be stumbling about like this when the issue could cause Android to either be shut down or force Google into very expensive licensing. More likely, they are making this look as ridiculous as possible in order to try to garner enough support for eliminating software patents, or at least substantial patent reform.

Then again, maybe they really did just have a case of the stupids.

We need patent reform. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#36984502)

I know there is a huge bunch of people who are on the stance Patents are Evil and should be removed... I don't think so... However they need a major work over. A lot of these patents are obvious, and need to be flagged as such, we need to find more reasons to reject patents then let them pass. The ones that do pass should be the golden software, which are not obvious to even experience developers. But a lot of these patents developers can easily infringe on not because they are copping but because a situation came up were it seemed to be the best solution to the problem, and may not have seen it before and just coded it because it needed to be coded.

Re:We need patent reform. (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 3 years ago | (#36984808)

You seem to be thinking along the lines I am at about the same time (my post just a couple posts down at the top level). So I guess this idea for reforming the patent system is not innovative :-)

Whenever there is a problem where at least a couple good programmers (or teams), working independently arrive reasonably quickly (within a month or so) at the same solution, then it is definitely not something that we need a patent system to encourage (because it is obvious enough that this invention would happen anyway). Since the patent system is itself a theft of other people's intellectual property (two people invent the same thing, fully independent of each other, but one happens to do so a few days later, that one loses their own property they created under the patent system concept if the other patented it first), its scope needs to be made to be very narrow and only applied to those kinds of things that are genuinely believed by real technologists (not government bureaucracy clerks) as something that is truly innovative and non-obvious.

One other case would apply, and that being where the invention requires a substantial amount of financial resources to apply the research needed to make this (e.g. arbitrary inventors would generally be unable to do this). But these cases are very few in number.

Re:We need patent reform. (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 years ago | (#36985050)

And why should software be patented at all? Do you think textbooks should be patented? How about mathematical formulas?

Re:We need patent reform. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985104)

They are evil, and should be removed. Software is a creative work covered by Copyright law. If Software can have patents, then so should movies, books, etc.

Trivia:Technically, all software is reducible to mathematical equations, which are not patentable. If you have some super secret algorithm that does something better/faster than anyone else can, you can always keep the source closed (trade secret), and have the same effect as a patent would anyway. If someone else can easily re-write something similarly good, then it didn't deserve a patent anyway.

Weak (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984508)

Who is this tool going around whining about how the competition is unfair?
If I were Larry Page I would fire this weakling who is making my company look bad.

patents no longer represent innovation (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 3 years ago | (#36984630)

I might be more believing of Google's current position if they were to also be campaigning for a major overhaul of the patent system.

Such a major overhaul needs to first recognize that any issuance of a patent "takes away the rights of others to independently invent and innovate" where "this taking is justified only where it creates an incentive to innovate where none would otherwise exist". It also needs to establish new, stronger, standards to evaluate whether an application represents genuine innovation that is not likely to have happened without the patent incentive (e.g. "if I can't get a patent, I just won't invent this" are cases that need incentive where things that would be invented no matter what are not). If an engineer, developer, or researcher in a given field (or in particular, a few of them) could have come up with the particular invention in a reasonable way, when posed with the particular problem it solves, then that represents something that is "obvious" and "non-innovative". The patent system should be (and originally was) for the purpose of encouraging innovative and non-obvious inventions in order to benefit the nation and world as a whole. It was never intended as a means for businesses to back-stab each other, to put roadblocks in front of each other, and to further gouge the markets.

FYI, this is not a "software patents" issue. While the vast majority of "software patents" really are obvious and/or non-innovative (at the level of standard that patents should be issued for), there are some cases where this is not so. It should not matter if a non-obvious and genuinely innovative idea is implemented in hardware or software (or a combination thereof). This kind of major patent system overhaul should also fix the "software patents problem" at the same time as fixing other problems.

Good quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984698)

Just read this (on DaringFireball):

Brian S. Hall, “Google Are Pussies”:

"If you have a monopoly business and generate monopoly profits and take those monopoly profits to another industry and gave away what your competitors (must) charge for, which led you to quickly capture the dominant maret share, would you

                whine like a bitch?"

Nice point :)

Link is down, sadly: http://brianshall.com/content/google-are-pussies [brianshall.com]

Not hypocritical (4, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | about 3 years ago | (#36984720)

I fail to see any hypocrisy and I re-read Gruber's blog post multiple times trying to follow his twisty logic.

It appears to me that Google, like many, many software engineers in the US but unlike many software companies in the US, doesn't see patents as particularly useful or valuable to the industry. Google seems to think that software patents inhibit innovation, not help it, and wishes that software patents didn't exist.

Does that mean that Google shouldn't buy patents or apply for patents? Of course not, because software patents do exist and it's suicide for a big software company to try to get along without them.

See, everyone who has been paying attention understands that 99.9% of software patents are utter crap. They don't represent real innovation, because they're simply obvious to anyone who happens to be working on the relevant problem. But actually going through the process of invalidating them, either by identifying the prior art or finding some way to demonstrate that they're obvious, is horribly time-consuming and expensive. And it's ultimately almost pointless because there are so many more patents out there which can be asserted once you've knocked down the first batch.

No, the way you defend yourself against bogus patent claims (or even the occasional arguably-valid claim) is by having plenty of patents so that you can countersue with a whole bunch of your own bogus patent claims. Then you and your attacker can negotiate a cross-licensing agreement. In practice, once you've got a sufficiently large pile of patents a form of detente sets in, where you and your commercial competitors don't bother to sue one another over patents because there's no point. No one would win but the lawyers anyway, and everyone knows it.

Google was perhaps a little slow to understand this patent landscape. More accurately, most of what Google did for years was harder to attack with patents so it wasn't so relevant and so Google didn't really bother. But Google is in the thick of it now, and fully understands the nature of the situation.

So, I don't see any hypocrisy. I think Google thinks software patents suck and should go away, but given that they're here Google is forced to play the game. But Google doesn't like the game, sees it as dirty pool and has decided to at least call its opponents on their dirty (if lamentably legal) tactics.

(Disclaimer: I'm a Google software engineer, but haven't been one for long and don't know anything about Google's patent strategy other than what I read in the press.)

Re:Not hypocritical (2, Insightful)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 3 years ago | (#36984918)

So explain why it's ok that Google was willing to pay $3B to buy the patents alone and protect themselves, but not willing to go in with all the other major mobile OS mfgrs to assure mutual protection.

Because that's really the point where people are telling Google to shut their whiny pie-holes.

Re:Not hypocritical (4, Insightful)

MooseMuffin (799896) | about 3 years ago | (#36985000)

Like the GP said, the point of owning patents in this industry is to represent the threat of a countersuit to prevent your competitors from suing you in the first place. That doesn't work in this scenario because you can't countersue Microsoft and Apple if the only patents you own are jointly owned by them too.

Re:Not hypocritical (0)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 3 years ago | (#36985144)

So being able to sue is a better business strategy than not being able to be sued?

I'm going to have to go get an MBA in order to understand the logic of that one.

Re:Not hypocritical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985088)

Because joining the other mfgrs does not assure mutual protection - not by a long shot. 1) The patent trolls are targeting phone makers, not google directly. 2) The nortel patents are not the patents being used to sue the phone makers.

Re:Not hypocritical (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 3 years ago | (#36985188)

1. Patent trolls don't go after large, rich companies that own lots of patents.

2. Google doesn't care about the phone makers. If they did, they'd force them to not hack Android so much. And they'd buy patents to protect them. Neither of which they're doing.

Re:Not hypocritical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984922)

As a redhat(er) I couldn't agree more.

Re:Not hypocritical (1)

leonardluen (211265) | about 3 years ago | (#36984928)

But Google doesn't like the game, sees it as dirty pool and has decided to at least call its opponents on their dirty (if lamentably legal) tactics.

But is it legal? if all of their competitors are getting together and using them to try to get rid of competition from google, isn't that what the anti-trust/monopoly laws were meant to stop?

Re:Not hypocritical (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984996)

"Google was perhaps a little slow to understand this patent landscape."

No, they weren't slow to understand they were busy INNOVATING in things that no one else was doing. You can bet that some of their search algorithms ARE patented because you don't get to be a business that size without knowing the legal ramifications of everything you're doing. (And anything their lawyers didn't know, they could have Google'd it!)

When they looked into the future and saw that, for all the work they put into search, it was going to be relegated to a small corner of someone else's world. It was THEN that they decided they needed to protect their money pile. Their way of doing it was not,"Let's work to create the next big thing and, as we go along, we'll patent what we devise as solutions, so that we're protected", it was,"as long as we're not SELLING this copy/paste OS, we're free to copy any of the patentable ideas in it. We'll make money off the ad revenue, done deal!" They knew their hardware partners COULD be sued because they're making money from the copy/paste OS, it's just a gamble they took because they were intimately aware that the patents Apple had applied for were not patented yet and not able to be protected yet.

Now they're caught, their partners are concerned and now is the part of their plan where they complain about patents. To think that Google is some doe-eyed good guy, completely unaware of what they were doing is naive.

Google is trying to have it's cake and eat it too (2)

hellfire (86129) | about 3 years ago | (#36985230)

I like Gruber's information and his podcast, but he takes way too many shots at Google and not enough at other companies. But it is true that there is hypocrisy in Google's statements. If what Microsoft is saying is true, Google was offered to go in with Apple, Microsoft, et al. to buy the patents and said no. Then Google bid themselves bid on those parents. They were outbid by the group that they were offered to join! Had they done so originally, they would have ownership of these patents and there would be no argument or story.

If you believe Google wouldn't turn around and use these patents offensively as well, I have a bridge to sell you. Why would Google not jump into the patent group to defend themselves from this most likely scenario? Perhaps they were going to turn around and attack with the same patents? I believe that to be a highly likely scenario, and as such it's hypocritical and Google comes off like a "whiny bitch" because instead of playing the safe bet in the game and then working to dismantle the game, they played the game aggressively, lost, and then acts like the victim when they just screwed themselves.

Bogus Patents ?? (1, Insightful)

CSHARP123 (904951) | about 3 years ago | (#36984776)

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

Patents are granted to these companies. When did it become bogus? If Google thinks this is bogus. They need to fight and get the patents invalidated. It is not as if Google is a small company and cannot fight. Google may have purposefully violated patents from other companies and hence they do not protect the OEMs who are implementing Android. If Google thinks these are bogus then fight and make sure these patents are invalidated.

Re:Bogus Patents ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36984852)

Bogus patents, that Google themselves bid on. Troll harder Google.

Re:Bogus Patents ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985040)

One of the reasons Google took so long to enter the fight is because of dirty maneuvers; like Apple attacking hardware companies, such as HTC, who decide to use the Android OS. While HTC isn't exactly a tiny company, it doesn't have the weight behind it that Google does.

Re:Bogus Patents ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985174)

The whole game will end with two sides, the losers, Apple, Oracle, Microsoft and Google and of course the end users, and the winners, the lawyers and the Chinese who will rip, steal and cheat them out of every technology, then sell them to their pissed off users.

As someone above said, Google has smart people, they wouldn't do this if they were stupid, so they must have a reason; the "others", are short-sighted because of their greed, to get more profits and fewer costs. One thing I know for certain, if Google loses, we'll all have Windows and Apple phones, which will stay the same if not for some hardware changes.

Re:Bogus Patents ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985202)

Practically all software patents are completely bogus, and we all know it. It may be technically legal, but the patent trolls are massively abusing the system.

Re:Bogus Patents ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985240)

When did it become bogus?

When the USPTO started granting bogus patents, I guess. So, several decades at a minimum.

... are you a time traveler?

Re:Bogus Patents ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985256)

Read the gov documents from the Google article. Some of these patents are already in the process of being invalidated.

Software and patents aren't compatible (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about 3 years ago | (#36984860)

The computer and software industry has been about rapid development and improvement. The 80s saw amazing development and growth. There were accusations of copying and all that, but the reality is that everyone copies everyone and always have. It's how we define progress. Forgetting that software is just path for a moment and let's just think of it in terms of development of a "thing."

The industry has grown from nearly nothing (by comparison) to the single most dominating thing which has transformed the way the world does business, recreation and correspondence in less time than it takes for a patent to expire! In fact, many "technologies" have come and gone in that time.

The fact is, "software" is a ware that has no cost of raw materials to manufacture. It's just bits and copying them costs nothing aside from the memory and storage devices used to contain them. Development only has the design phases and testing phases without the costs of prototyping and materials selection that you would see in a physical product. What I am saying is that software is a very fluid and rich environment and the translation from idea to product is very rapid. This makes patents unnecessary as an incentive to develop and build new things -- the need to do so is a matter of survival in this industry. And, of course, now we are seeing that patents on software is having the effect of stifling development and innovation as ideas can be patented without any cost involved with developing the idea at all.

I know... more preaching to the choir here on slashdot so it's nearly useless. But on the off chance some senator or congressman or someone associated with them can find this on a search, then maybe it's good to write about it.

Software patents are actually slowing down the US software industry. As golliaths sit on their massive pile of patents, they are increasingly using them to squash competition rather than developing new and innovative things as they should be. And since the rest of the world doesn't care about software patents, they are more free to continue their rapid development of technologies meaning the US is slowly being left behind.

The current approach is to keep things as they are and to "defend them" politically and eventually physically. That approach is leaving the US with fewer and fewer friends...

Patent reform (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 3 years ago | (#36984880)

Step 1- all patents are considered invalid until proven in court. If the USPTO can't be bothered to validate patents then let the courts handle the matter. Step 2- To get a software patent you must file (complete) source, including build environment. Having the full source for windows would level the playing field, and allow people to support old embedded applications. Step 3- All pending patents and submitted patents are on public display from the moment they are filed. Step 4- Massively reduced damages if you didn't actually -USE- the patent. Should cut down on trolls.

Do not play the patent troll's game (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 3 years ago | (#36984992)

Simply ignore the software patents. And throw through the window the lawyer who trying to sue you. (+bonus if you're on the tenth floor or higher)

This is stupid (4, Insightful)

C_Kode (102755) | about 3 years ago | (#36985020)

If there is a time when the government should step in this is it. This whole patent war crap is not only anti-competitive for the companies involved, but it also kills off any chance of new companies innovating in the market. It's becomes a monopoly by patent portfolio enforcement.

It's anti-competitive and should be squashed.

Re:This is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985374)

Of course it is.

Good luck getting that sort of reform through the house with its current composition, though.

Patents are the problem (2)

ucflap (2317940) | about 3 years ago | (#36985118)

Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, who is playing fair and who isn't doesn't interest me. Software patents are the real issue here, they are misused and contribute to restrain innovation in the software world. I really wonder if I'll ever see the end to this nonsense before the end of my life. Google always gave me the impression they considered software patents as a nuisance, I hope they use some of their billions to lobby the politicians into abolishing it, since apparently it's the only way to make things change in the US.

Novell, not Nortel (4, Informative)

uss_valiant (760602) | about 3 years ago | (#36985130)

Reading comprehension fail or professional troll? MS said they invited Google to a joint bid for the Novell deal. That's not the $4.5 billion Nortel deal.

Re:Novell, not Nortel (4, Funny)

synapse7 (1075571) | about 3 years ago | (#36985394)

/. rule 43) Subjects in question that sound close enough to the same will be treated as the same, especially if it makes for a better headline.

Translation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36985384)

WAHH!!!! That meany Bill Gates bought them before we could! WAH!!!!!!

Brilliant (1)

darkgray (657520) | about 3 years ago | (#36985446)

Software patents seems like a brilliant scheme by lawyers to produce infinite work out of nothing.

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