Google and Microsoft’s public patent dispute rages on

5 Aug 2011

Google and Microsoft have continued their public patent dispute, as the two tech giants argue over the motivations behind a group partnership to buy Novell patents.

Previously, Google’s senior vice-president and chief legal officer David Drummond posted a blog entry claiming Microsoft, Apple and Oracle were involved in a campaign to strangle Android’s growth by buying Novell’s and Nortel’s patents, suing Android manufacturers for patent infringement and charging licensing fees for each Android device.

Microsoft hit back, claiming Google was also invited to buy Novell’s patents but refused.

Drummond updated the previous entry, saying that getting involved with the Novell patent acquisition would have made Android even more vulnerable to legal action from its competitors.

“It’s not surprising that Microsoft would want to divert attention by pushing a false ‘gotcha!’ while failing to address the substance of the issues we raised,” wrote Drummond.

“If you think about it, it’s obvious why we turned down Microsoft’s offer. 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 licence 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,” he said.

Drummond said the US Department of Justice intervened, which made Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and EMC give a licence to the open source community in order to “protect competition and innovation” within this community.

“This only reaffirms our point: Our competitors are waging a patent war on Android and working together to keep us from getting patents that would help balance the scales,” he said.

Microsoft strikes back

Microsoft’s lead of corporate communications Frank Shaw was quick to respond on Twitter again, saying Google only refused to team up with Microsoft to buy the patents because Google only wanted patents that it could use against competitors.

“We offered Google the opportunity to bid with us to buy the Novell patents; they said no,” said Shaw.

“Why? Because they wanted to buy something that they could use to assert against someone else. So partnering with others and reducing patent liability across industry is not something they wanted to help do,” he said.

Considering the intensifying legal disputes regarding smartphone patents, it looks like the battle isn’t over yet.