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04 August 2011, 10:36

Google accuses Apple, Oracle and Microsoft of an Android patent war

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Android Open icon Google's Chief Legal Officer and Senior Vice President, David Drummond, took to the company's official blog yesterday to accuse Microsoft, Apple and Oracle of "a hostile, organized campaign against Android" which was being "waged through bogus patents". Although there are numerous patent cases surrounding Google's mostly open source mobile operating system Android, only one of them, Oracle's case, directly addresses Google. All the other cases involve handset manufacturers either being taken to court for patent infringement (Apple vs HTC and Apple vs Samsung) or paying patent licence fees to Microsoft for undisclosed patents.

Drummond complains that the "anti-competitive strategy is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they’re really worth" citing the bidding for Nortel's patent portfolio which went to a consortium for $4.5 billion. Drummond says that is nearly five times more than the pre-auction estimate, but does not mention that Google bid at least $3.14 billion for the same patents and possibly as much as $4 billion.

He says that Google is reassured by actions such as the Department of Justice's conditions placed on the CPTN consortium which bought the Novell patent portfolio, patents Drummond alleges were purchased as part of an anti-Android campaign to "make sure Google didn't get them". Microsoft's Brad Smith responded directly to this accusation on Twitter saying "Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.". Frank Shaw, Microsoft Head of Communications then published a copy of a letter from Google's General Counsel, Kent Walker, to Brad Smith turning down the opportunity to join Microsoft's bid.

Google's Drummond says that the company is encouraged by reports that the DoJ is looking into the Nortel patent acquisition. According to the Wall Street Journal report, sources say the DoJ is "interviewing consortium members on whether they have plans to file patent infringement suits against handset makers using Google's Android software". Despite Drummond's statement casting doubt on the validity of the majority of patents by using terms like "bogus", "largely questionable" and "dubious", he said that Google is also building up its patent portfolio. It recently acquired, for an undisclosed sum, more than 1,000 patents from IBM.

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