Last week, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, wrote a blog post complaining that Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle are ‘banding together’ to wage ‘a hostile, organized campaign against Android…through bogus patents’. In the post, Drummond casts Google as the innocent victim, working hard to bring cool technology to consumers, while its rivals only want litigation and to impose a “tax” that would make ‘Android devices more expensive’ and ‘harder for manufacturers to sell’. (Read Mr. Drummond’s blog post here http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/when-patents-attack-android.html)
So this is how Google’s going to dig itself out of the hole they’re in. They are resorting to junior high and quasi-political tactics to sway public opinion. Even if everything Mr. Drummond states is true, what does he hope to gain by writing this blog post? It’s no secret that Google needed to win the Nortel patent auction, but to label the Nortel patents as ‘bogus’ while accusing competitors as ganging up on them is downright juvenile. They look like sore losers, and I’m having a hard time sympathizing with them.
Let’s be honest. It’s not Apple and Microsoft’s fault Google finds itself without a decent patent portfolio of its own and little chance of purchasing a significant portfolio. Google could have gone out and hired some patent attorneys too. Instead, Google chose to ignore the rules of the game, and now they are paying the price (both literally and figuratively).
The Rules are simple.
1. The bigger you are, the more you have to lose (so be smart.)
2. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
3. Ignore your patents (as well as the patents of others) at your peril.
Google is not a victim. In its pursuit to be number one at everything internet, social media, and telephone, it has become a really big fish. As a big fish, it is now a target for other big fish. Their patents should be their shield, their leverage, their saving grace. Unfortunately, they don’t have enough. Whose fault is that? It’s Google’s fault.
Microsoft and Apple (and Oracle) are not picking on them. This is business. Of course they’re trying to ‘strangle’ Android! Please name me the company that welcomes competition into their markets. Are the executives at Apple supposed to say, ‘Oh look. A billion dollar company is entering into our market. Let’s welcome them.’? No. They are going to do what they can to prevent Google from gaining too much market share at their expense, and that means using patents. Again, this is business, a business that Google surely understands.
The big question I have is where was Google’s patent strategy for their Android phone technology? Their own portfolio is small. I guess they chose not to pursue significant patent protection while developing the technology. Was this a cost savings measure? I’m pretty sure a good patent portfolio would have cost less than $4.5 Billion + the cost of licensing patents. Was everything already patented and they were hoping to license or purchase patent assets from third parties in the future? Or maybe they thought nobody would notice them swimming in their pond using technology that may or may not be patented by others.
Mr. Drummond states “we’re not naïve”. I think Google thinks the rest of us are. Stop whining, Google. You brought this on yourself.