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Google Slugs Apple, Microsoft Finishes the Fight

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PATENTLY RIDICULOUS
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To the tech giants, they're hoarded and treasured like premiere issues of X-Men.

To the end user, they're the chief reason why innovation is so stifled in the smartphone world.

Of course, I'm talking about tech patents.

Effectively severing the branches of development, tech patents slap away the many hands that could improve upon a technology. They hold an idea, no matter how broad -- like, say, a friggin' touchscreen -- under lock and key and prevent its growth. They place the heart of competition not in development but in the courtroom -- thus becoming a significant source of revenue for companies who'd rather sue than stay competitive.

And they are the lifeblood for virtually every single one of the major players, from Apple to Google to Microsoft.

But despite his company's involvement with buying 1,000 IBM patents not a few weeks ago, Google's David Drummond played the innocent martyr and claimed Apple and Microsft's recent teamup against Mountain View stunk of an underhanded scramble for "bogus patents."

In a post on the Official Google Blog, Drummond noted the peculiar partnership between Cupertino and Redmond, especially since the two companies "have always been at each other's throats" for decades. "[When] they get into bed together you have to start wondering what's going on," Drummond writes.

He accuses their successful bid for Novell and Nortell's old smartphone-related patents of being "a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents." He claimed that this was a direct and conscious effort to stifle Android's growth. He writes:

"A smartphone might involve as many as 250,000 (largely questionable) patent claims, and our competitors want to impose a 'tax' for these dubious patents that makes Android devices more expensive for consumers. They want to make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices. Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation."

However, Drummond claims that the move might be deemed illegal under the eyes of the law. "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."

The thing is, Drummond's post might've been a noble letter had Google not just bought 1,000 IBM patents -- or had Microsoft not ask Google to team up to bid on the patents in the first place.

Soon after Drummond posted his diatribe, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith tweeted, "Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no."


If that wasn't enough, Frank Shaw -- Microsoft Head of Communications -- added fuel to the fire by tweeting, "Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog."


Shaw then linked to an email from Google's General Counsel Kent Walker declining the joint bid. It read:

Brad –

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you — I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we’re open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.

I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

– Kent

So, in an effort to look noble and claiming everyone is out to get it, Google just shot itself in the foot.

Unfortunately, even a gaffe this big won't put an end to the scourge of the technology sector that are tech patents.

(See also: Your Facebook Friends Couldn't Care Less About Your Real Birthday and Apple's iCloud Still Playing Catchup to Google)

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POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.

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