Ina Fried

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Google Fires Back in Android Patent War of Words

Google and Microsoft are starting to sound like the kids in the back of the car on a long road trip.

“He started it.”

“Nuh-uh.”

Anyway, Google has now posted its response to Microsoft’s assertion that it had in fact offered to jointly bid with Google on some Novell-owned patents.

In an updated blog post, Google says that’s true, but argues that doesn’t change the fact that Microsoft is trying to use its patents as a weapon against Android.

“It’s not surprising that Microsoft would want to divert attention by pushing a false ‘gotcha!’ while failing to address the substance of the issues we raised,” Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said in a Thursday update to Wednesday’s blog post. Drummond acknowledges that Microsoft made an offer, but adds, “If you think about it, it’s obvious why we turned down Microsoft’s offer. Microsoft’s objective has been to keep from Google and Android device-makers any patents that might be used to defend against their attacks.”

Jointly buying the patents, Drummond said, would have elminated Google’s ability to use the patents as a defense against Microsoft’s other Android patent claims. “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.”

The back-and-forth underscores just how critical patents have become in the mobile battle. Nearly everyone in the smartphone business is a plaintiff, defendant or both in some patent matter. Microsoft, for its part, has been seeking royalties from those making Android products, having reached an agreement with HTC (as well as some smaller Android players) and having filed suits against Motorola and Barnes & Noble.

Meanwhile, Microsoft PR head Frank Shaw has begun his reply to Drummond’s update, with a warning that the response may take a couple of tweets.

“We offered Google the opportunity to bid with us to buy the Novell patents; they said no,” Shaw said on Twitter (with a few of his capital letters removed). “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.”

Personally, I’m tempted to pull the car over and tell them both that if they can’t play nice, then neither of them gets to blog for two weeks.


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