Google and Microsoft in public spat over patent ‘stranglehold’

Google’s accusing Apple, Oracle and Microsoft of deliberately pursuing ‘bogus’ patent claims in order to strangle Android and drive up the cost of Android phones.

Google senior VP and chief legal officer David Drummond describes what he calls a ‘hostile, organized campaign’, particularly over the thousands of Nortel and Novell patents recently bought by Google’s rivals.

“They’re doing this by banding together to acquire Novell’s old patents (the ‘CPTN’ group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel’s old patents (the ‘Rockstar’ group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn’t get them; seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Phone 7; and even suing Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung,” he says on the company blog.

“Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it.”

He says that, as a result, patents are becoming far too expensive, with the winning bid for Nortel’s patent portfolio reaching $4.5 billion – compared with a pre-auction estimate of $1 billion.

“Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anti-competitive means — which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop,” he says.

So far, the only company to respond to Google’s accusations is Microsoft – which says Google had every opportunity to join in the winning bid for the Novell patents.

General counsel and senior vice president Brad Smith claims in a tweet: “Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”

And head of communications Frank Shaw has posted an email on his own Twitter feed that appears to back this up.