Yesterday, Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote about software patent problems attacking Android. Those problems were stemming from a consortium of Microsoft, Apple, and others. Microsoft unofficially responded with two tweets.
Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel, tweeted that Google was invited to bid along with the rest of the companies.
Frank Shaw, lead corporate communications for Microsoft, tweeted an image of a letter from another Googler, Kent Walker, that stated Google would choose to not participate in the group bid at this time.
That letter reads:
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you—I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable on this one. But I appreciate you flagging it, and we’re open to discussing similar opportunities in the future.
I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
In response to these two tweets, Google’s Drummond has updated yesterday’s blog post.
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. 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 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.
Ultimately, the U.S. Department of Justice intervened, forcing Microsoft to sell the patents it bought and demanding that the winning group (Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, EMC) give a license to the open-source community, changes the DoJ said were “necessary to protect competition and innovation in the open source software 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.
While Microsoft’s Brad Smith hasn’t tweeted since the above embedded message, Frank Shaw has been actively discussing it online on his Twitter account with his opinions.
It’ll be interesting to see where this goes but it seems this sort of conversation usually stays behind closed doors, so getting all this out through corporate blog posts and Twitter makes it seem childish and petty. Can patent reform really come out of anything as unproductive as this dialog? Our best bet is probably the America Invents Act but if these companies spend as much as they do on lobbyists as they have on patents, I fear that it might be impossible for the little guy to get his foot in the door when the final result is decided.