I have been resisting it for a while but it has just got so stupid I can’t stop the rant any more. This story is going to center around the giants of tech and starts with the auction of the Nortell patents and will end up with a claim of infringement based on a sci-fi movie.
Battles over patent infringement is nothing new, this is no beginning but it is an escalation. It has become a time when companies are forced to buy more and more patents just to defend themselves from lawsuits by countersuing with their own list of infringements. It seems to me to be like the cold war of a couple of decades back where countries stockpiled a nuclear arsenal with little intention to use them but to use them as a deterrent against anther country attacking them. Then, as now, we find these large tech companies buying up stockpiles of patents to assure one of two things, a deterrent against attack or at the very worst each others mutual destruction. No longer are the giants like Microsoft, Google and Apple (and the hardware companies like HTC and Samsung that have been dragged into the battle) able to dedicate the same level of time and investment to innovation. Surely, if you have faith in your product and your user base you should be able to compete in the open market and not resort to the courts to decide which product is the best.
I am no patent lawyer (not even close) and I can understand a need to protect your idea but when it gets out of hand like this, something in the system is broken, whether it is the system itself or whether the patents granted truly can be called justified will require many clever heads in the industry to sort it out,
At the point where we begin, we What follows is a summary of the news that has really dominated tech throughout August.
Nortel patents 1st July 2011
This is the tipping point for the recent bout of madness. Up until now, Google has been trying to sidestep all the patent issues and carry on the development of Android. However a constant stream of litigation against the successful mobile OS forces Google to look to purchase some protective patents of their own. However they misjudge the situation quite badly offering sums based on mathematical variables like Pi. They end up losing the patents to a consortium of 6 companies made up of the most unlikely set of allies: Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Sony, Ericsson and EMC. The 6000 patents are sold for $4.5bn.
Apple files against HTC – 12th July
HTC and Google have been partnering together with Android for a while now and in their ongoing battle against the copycat designs of their mobile and tablet devices, Apple sued HTC for infringing on 20 of their patents. HTC denied the allegations and immediately counter-sued against Apples infringements of their own designs. It’s not the first company that Apple has tried to stop imports of their products, the previous month they had made the claims against Samsungs designs of phone and tablet
Google whines about everyone not playing fair – 3rd August
In what I felt was a very uncharacteristic for Google, they posted on their blog about how unfair everyone was being to Google and Android in particular. The post was titled When patents attack Android and was posted by David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer.
Rather than rant at the blogosphere, I think that Mr Drummond’s energies would have been better off directed at solving the problem rather than cry about it. Google simply looked like were sulking about losing out on the Nortel deal even though they didn’t take it as seriously as they should have.
Microsoft replies to Googles post publicly on Twitter – 4th August
Google’s assertions were swiftly contradicted by Microsoft. The firm’s General Counsel, Brad Smith, tweeted: “Google says we brought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”
Frank Shaw, one of Microsoft’s top PR men, then tweeted an image of an email between Smith and Kent Walker, Google General Counsel, which appears to confirm that Microsoft offered to team up with Google.
David Drummond then goes on to update his blog post from the previous night to explain why they didn’t team up with the group and instead highlights the fact that the DOJ overturned the ownership of some of the patents and forced them to be handed over to the open source community.
The rest of the consortium opt not to join in the public slagging match and stay quiet.
Apple seeks injunction preventing Samsung galaxy tab in Europe – 10th August
In a mini-saga in itself, Apple files an injunction to ban sales of the Galaxy range of smartphones and the 10.1″ Galaxy Tab. This is initially granted despite controversy surrounding the doctoring of The Tab’s dimensions. The injunction is later lifted after courts decide that the only infringement is that of how the two devices scroll pages.
Google buys Motorola – 15th August
It’s a Monday morning, the markets haven’t even opened yet and Larry Page was announcing to the world that it has bought Motorola Mobility for $40 a share… In cash. This is of course the mobile phone arm of Motorola that was spun off as a separate company 8 months previously. In a deal for $12.5bn (£7.7bn), Google gets not only the ‘Mobility’ arm, which makes phones and tablets, but it also has a ‘Solutions’ division, which develops technology systems for industry. Analysts speculate that Google’s primary motivation was not for the hardware but also arms them with over 17,000 patents of protection for themselves. Although other handset manufacturers like samsung and HTC were falling over themselves to say what a good move it was for them, you can’t help but wonder how they really feel now that Google has a dedicated hardware platform that they can produce for.
The deal has yet to be completely finalised but Google expects the purchase to be completed by the end of 2011 or early 2012.
Microsoft tries to ban Motorola imports – 22nd August
Microsoft filed a suit on the above date accusing Google’s new besty, Motorola Mobility, of infringing on seven of Microsoft’s patents that just so happen to cover Android. Before the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, Microsoft requested an import ban on a number of Motorola smartphones.
Microsoft is “confident that the ITC will rule in [its] favor.” Meanwhile, Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said in an email to Bloomberg that Motorola is “vigorously defending [itself] against Microsoft’s patent attack business strategy.” And a business strategy is exactly what it is.
Administrative Law Judge Theodore Essex will release his findings to the public on November 4.
Samsung tries to claim “prior art” on Apples patents – 23rd August
You can tell that Samsung is getting desperate in it’s fight against apple’s lawsuits. They made the claim that iPad-like tablets have already been established as “prior art,” thanks to a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In one of the Space Odyssey scenes, two astronauts are eating together. Each has a thin, tablet-like display next to his meal tray. Because the film was released in 1968, long before Apple designed the iPad, Samsung argues that Space Odyssey establishes iPad-like tablets as “prior art” and invalidates one of Apple’s patents.
“As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table’s surface), and a thin form factor,” Samsung’s legal team writes.
That’s it to date… Actually it’s not, there’s more looming over the horizon but if I don’t post now, I never will cos this is going to rumble on and on and on.