Google this afternoon acknowledged that it turned down Microsoft’s invitation to bid together on a portfolio of patents from Novell, confirming what Microsoft said yesterday afternoon. But the search giant alleged that the invite was actually a sneaky attempt by Microsoft to further undermine Google’s ability to protect itself from patent claims against its Android mobile operating system.
“A joint acquisition of the Novell patents that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners,” says David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, in an update to his earlier blog post. “Making sure that we would be unable to assert these patents to defend Android — and having us pay for the privilege — must have seemed like an ingenious strategy to them. We didn’t fall for it.”
Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate communications chief, responded in a series of tweets: “Let’s look at what Google does not dispute in their reply. We offered Google the opportunity to bid with us to buy the Novell patents; they said no. Why? BECAUSE they wanted to buy something that they could use to assert against someone else. SO partnering with others & reducing patent liability across industry is not something they wanted to help do.”
The kerfuffle started yesterday when Drummond criticized what he called “a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.”
Microsoft responded by pointing out that Google had declined its invitation to bid on the Novell patents, one of the examples cited by Drummond in his post.
A consortium led by Microsoft attempted to acquire Novell’s patents. It ultimately ended up entering into a licensing deal instead, after the Department of Justice raised objections.
Unaddressed in the latest back-and-forth is the purchase of Nortel’s patents by a group including Microsoft and Apple, or Microsoft’s efforts to seek royalties from makers of Android handsets. The Redmond company says Android infringes on its patents. It’s reportedly getting $5 for every Android device sold by HTC, and seeking additional royalties from others.