Google, Microsoft bicker over patents

Google and Microsoft continued a very public and heated exchange that sparked after Google’s top legal officer accused rival companies — Microsoft included — of using “bogus patents” to fight a “campaign against Android.”

Google’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond started the conversation on Wednesday complaining that rivals banded together to purchase 6000 patents from Nortel just “to make sure Google didn’t get them.”

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith responded on Twitter saying that wasn’t really true. “Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really?” Smith said on Twitter. “We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”

Just when it would seem things couldn’t get more awkward between the two tech giants, another Microsoft employee decided to get in the fight. Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw released an e-mail allegedly from one of Google’s lawyers that seems to prove Google declined to enter a joint bid for “various reasons.”

The point here is that Drummond’s conspiracy theory that rivals were teaming up against Google doesn’t hold much water if Google was invited into the group.

Drummond responded to Microsoft’s jabs Thursday saying that it was trying to “divert attention” and that the reason Google didn’t want a joint bid was obvious. Here’s what he said, “Microsoft’s objective has been to keep from Google and Android device-makers any patents that might be used to defend against their attacks. A joint acquisition of the Novell patents that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners. Making sure that we would be unable to assert these patents to defend Android — and having us pay for the privilege — must have seemed like an ingenious strategy to them. We didn’t fall for it.”

It makes sense that if Google is seeking a stronger patent portfolio to protect Android from further lawsuits and licensing fees that having joint ownership with its rivals is of little interest to them. What’s confusing is that Drummond is pointing a finger at Google’s rivals for using tactics Google seems to want to use itself.

After all, stockpiling patents won’t do Google much good unless it plans to use them against its rivals or wage a patent cold war where all sides are afraid to use their own portfolio due to repercussions from their rivals. That seems to be the point that Microsoft spokesman Shaw landed on.

He directly challenged Drummond on Twitter alleging that Google didn’t join in on the Nortel bid because they wanted to use the portfolio against someone else. Drummond is yet to respond to the allegation.

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