Feel free to skip the soaps today — this little saga should be more than enough for your daily allotment of drama.

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.

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  • http://twitter.com/Drakan858 ken

    Actually it’s $15 per android device sold, not $5.

    • sunshine

      ken, separate reports have indicated that HTC pays $5 per android device.  So no-one knows where reuters got its $15 per android device from. The fact it is mentioned as that doesn’t mean it is true.

  • Guest

    So far Drummond has claimed that MS and Apple have “always been” at each other’s throats, despite numerous examples past and present where they have worked together on other items. Then he says the patents are bogus, but provides zero support. And of course many of the OEMs who have actually been provided the evidence from Apple, MS and many others have chosen to settle. The he claims MS tried to keep Google from the Novell patents, only to be proved wrong and embarrassed by MS’s lead counsel via a direct email from Google. 

    Now he adds this bit of illogic:

    “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,”

    Which doesn’t make any sense. Participating in the Novell or Nortel patents would have at least prevented any of these from being used against Google. What Drummond really seems to be saying is that Google knows it can’t defend Android against the patents held by others, and is therefore focused on trying to secure unrelated patents, preferably on an exclusive or near exclusive basis, with which it can counter sue and hope those claims can either be settled or at least reduced.

    He also claims that MS is trying to make it more expensive for OEMs to license Android. What he doesn’t say is that Google could easily make this issue go away, at least for the OEMs, by simply indemnifying them directly.

    If Google is so certain these patent are bogus, they should step up, put their money where their mouth is, and shoulder the risk directly instead of leaving it to their OEMs.  

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