Google's Patent Counsel On the Broken Patent System

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 07, 2011

Recently, we took note of the fact that two of Microsoft's lawyers, Brad Smith and Horacio Gutierrez, have a post up regarding Microsoft's announcement of its tenth license agreement providing coverage under its patent portfolio for Android mobile phones and tablets. They also note that Microsoft has inked nine Android agreements in recent months, and that "companies accounting for over half of all Android devices have now entered into patent license agreements with Microsoft." Google has responded previously, in a blog post, to litigious behavior surrounding Android, but now Google's patent counsel, Tim Porter, is delving deeper into the patent problem.

Google and Android, of course, are squarely ensconced in some of the most hard-fought mobile technology patent battles ever. And, Google's new positioning as a player in handsets may elevate these skirmishes.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Porter comments specifically on Google's Android face-off with Microsoft:

"This is a tactic that Microsoft has used in the past, with Linux, for example. When their products stop succeeding in the marketplace, when they get marginalized, as is happening now with Android, they use the large patent portfolio they've built up to get revenue from the success of other companies' products."

Interestingly, Porter also notes that the history of software patent litigiation has not followed a linear path. Instead, there was a period when innovation proceeded absent patent skirmishes:

"You can look at the development of the software industry and see a point when (software wasn't being patented) and it was a period of intense innovation. You didn't see Microsoft's first software patent until 1988. By that time it had come out with Word, not to mention DOS.So there's just no question you can look back and see that innovation happens without patents. It's also true that since there weren't patents, there wasn't software patent litigation."

Indeed, software patent litigiation didn't start to pick up at an alarming rate until the 1990s. The late 1980s witnessed far less patent-driven territorialism.

Porter's whole interview is well worth reading. It's not at all just a swipe at Microsoft, but an indictment of many broken aspects of the patent system.