from the ain't-that-always-the-way dept
However, there is one company that's quite worried about all of this: Microsoft. Even though it's not clear who will win the bid for Nortel's patents (and many expect Google to be outbid), Microsoft has officially objected to Google's attempt to buy the patents, saying that it has a perpetual royalty-free license to those patents, and under the terms of the sale, any buyer could end that deal.
And here's why Microsoft is a steaming pile of hypocrisy on this subject: Microsoft has ramped up its own anti-Android patent trolling efforts, lately. It's been demanding licensing fees and/or suing all sorts of companies who use Android. In fact, some reports suggest that thanks to all this effort, Microsoft makes significantly more money from Android phones than from its own mobile platforms. Clearly, shaking down others with patents is good money.
And Microsoft doesn't think it's fair that someone else could do the same thing to it:
For Microsoft to complain is pretty rich, of course. Here it is, using patents to attack companies employing Android in an attempt to slow down the uptake of that rival to its own Windows Phone smartphone system. That's a clear abuse of the patent system to dissuade companies from signing up with a competitor (which, interestingly, it doesn't attack directly), rather than to protect real innovation (an aim that was thrown out of the patent system long ago.)
After all, those deeply innovative ideas that Microsoft is claiming that companies are infringing include “natural ways of interacting with devices by tabbing through various screens to find the information they need, surfing the Web more quickly, and interacting with documents and e-books”. Tabbed screens - yeah, right.
And yet when there is the prospect that Google might be able to threaten in exactly the same way, by pulling existing licences - not, admittedly, a very nice thing to do, but all's fair etc. etc. - Microsoft suddenly wants the government to intervene to protect it from this bullying.
I mean, let's be consistent here: if you want to abuse the patent system, expect to be on the receiving end of similar abuse. On the other hand, rather more laudably, why not stop abusing, in which case you can take the moral high ground when others start abusing the system to attack you?