THE INCREASINGLY POPULAR mobile operating system Android is under attack from all sides, according to one of Google's legal experts, and faces a real challenge from the consortium that bought Nortel's patents
That consortium is made up of some unlikely bedfellows, not least of all the curious pairing of Microsoft and Apple. This gathering of dark forces has the big software company concerned.
"I have worked in the tech sector for over two decades. Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other's throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what's going on," writes David Drummond, SVP and chief legal officer.
Drummond said that Android was becoming more and more popular and winning more and more users, however he added that its successes were being tarnished.
"Android's success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents," he explained.
"They're doing this by banding together to acquire Novell's old patents (the 'CPTN' group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel's old patents (the 'Rockstar' group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn't get them."
Referring to earlier reports, Drummond added that these Rockstars could demand a $15 license fee for every Android device be placed in their rider once they take control of their patents.
"Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it," he added.
"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."
Drummond added something that we have all started to work out for ourselves, particularly if you followed the Nortel auction, that patent land grabs are raising the cost of intellectual property.
"We're not naive; technology is a tough and ever-changing industry and we work very hard to stay focused on our own business and make better products," he continued.
"But in this instance we thought it was important to speak out and make it clear that we're determined to preserve Android as a competitive choice for consumers, by stopping those who are trying to strangle it."
This is becoming a recurring theme at Google. At the end of June general counsel Kent Walker likened the patent buying game to a battlefield. "The tech industry has a significant problem," he said. "Software patents are kind of gumming up the works of innovation."
"We want to make sure Google and the companies Google partners with aren't shut out of the opportunity to bring great new products and features to consumers... We'll be fine. We have the resources to balance the scales here."
Google, which we should have mentioned earlier is fighting Oracle over Java patents in Android, is doing all it can to balance the scales, and just last week bought 1,000 patents from IBM. µ