If Google Is Serious About Reforming Patent Mess, It Should Make A Bold Statement And Stop Using Motorola Patents To Demand Cash
from the now's-the-chance dept
Of course, about a week later, Google bought Motorola Mobility, almost entirely for its large patent portfolio. Given Google's outspoken viewpoint on patents, the assumption was that the company would continue to use those patents defensively against the increasing number of attacks by patent holders on Google. However, as MG Siegler is reporting, it looks like Google might at least continue Motorola's patent strategy post acquisition (which is about to be approved):
Of course, with some of these, the lawsuits are well underway, but Google could seek to dismiss some of the lawsuits if it wanted to. I think Siegler goes a bit far in claiming that Google automatically becomes "the villain" for gaining control over offensive patent moves that it's inheriting with this purchase. The bigger question will be what Google does going forward. However, if Google really does want to send a larger message around patents, it will get itself out of those efforts pretty quickly once taking over the company, reinforcing that the larger picture is more important than being able to extract a tax on competing products.
Google is saying that they don’t plan on making any changes to the way Motorola was enforcing their patent pool. This presumably means, among other things, they’ll now be suing Apple and trying to block the iPhone from being sold in certain countries.
This also presumably means they’ll be suing Microsoft and trying to bring down the H.264 video codec — which, by the way, Google created a competitor to (WebM) out of fear that someone would come along one day and try to enforce patents that would kill the H.264 video codec.
How’s that for a mind fuck?
The tables have gotten so turned that it’s now Apple and Microsoft who are complaining about patent enforcement. Specifically, both want assurances that patents licensed under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, are actually just that — fair.
In Motorola’s eyes, “fair” is Apple paying 2.25 percent on each iPhone and iPad sold. John Paczkowski of AllThingsD did the math: this would mean Apple paying about a billion dollars a year in royalty fees to Motorola.
A billion dollars. The mobile unit that Google is buying lost $285 million for the year last year. Apple would be indirectly keeping them, a competitor, afloat.
Of course, there is one other thing that makes this a bit more complicated, which I think Siegler ignores. He mentions how Google had to "make assurances that they would act fairly with patents they were acquiring." But he doesn't quite highlight the possible significance of that statement. If Google does get itself out of some of these lawsuits, and then chooses either to not enforce its patents against others or (better yet!) to freely license its patents to many other players, how long would it take Google's competitors to claim that Google was somehow "unfairly" using the patents to its advantage by giving them away for "free." Google competitors have used Google's free services as a stick against Google in the past, pretending that this meant they were abusing their position. I could definitely see some sneaky and ridiculous legal argument that if Google isn't making companies pay up for its newly acquired patents that it's unfairly abusing its position. This is, of course, a ridiculously stupid argument, but it's the nature of the world these days, where aggressive IP enforcement is seen as the norm.
Either way, I hope that Google stands by its words from last summer and is quick to extricate itself from offensive patent situations. But we'll find out soon.