David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer for Google, has posted an open letter in which he accuses Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, and others of waging “a hostile, organized campaign against Android” using what he calls “bogus” patents. “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. Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it,” he writes.
“This anti-competitive strategy is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they’re really worth,” Drummond continues. “The winning $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the 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.”
Following the publication of Drummond’s post, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith stated on Twitter that Microsoft asked Google to bid jointly for the Nortel patents, and that they said no, a claim corroborated by screenshot of an email to Smith from Google General Counsel Kent Walker stating as much, which was published online by Frank X. Shaw of Microsoft. Notably, Google attempted to purchase the Nortel patents on its own, despite its inference that they are of a “dubious” nature; Apple has yet to respond on the issue.