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By 5 August 2011 | Categories: news

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Patent lawsuits have become part and partial of the tech industry of late, with companies like Nokia and Apple, Samsung and Apple, Kodak, BlackBerry holding company Research In Motion and Apple going toe to toe over patent rights.

Google has now decided to take a stand on the issue in light of what it deems to be an outright attack on its Android mobile operating system (OS), by some of its main competitors the likes of Microsoft and Apple.

Android on top of the mobile OS

Market research firm Canalys recently stated that Android is staking its claim as the predominant smartphone platform, having achieved a 48% global smartphone OS market share. The search giant reiterated this dominant position, saying that it is activating north of 550 000 Android devices per day, via a network of 39 manufacturers as well as 231 carriers around the world.

According to Google there’s a healthy dose of competition between Android-operating devices, Windows Phone 7 OS-running smartphones, as well as Apple’s iOS-powered mobile devices. This competition has resulted in some pretty neat and innovative smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy SII and the iPhone 4. However, the company also stated that something far more sinister has come from this aggressive competition for global mobile OS domination, “a hostile, organised campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.”

“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; seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Phone 7; and even suing Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung, David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal officer stated in a post on Google’s official blog. “Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it”.  

Drummond said that the aim of these companies is to make Android devices more expensive for consumers and consequently less desirable because of it. According to him this means that they want to compete with Android, not in the marketplace by offering better products, but in the courts via lawsuits or patent agreements.

Google is investigating various steps to assist it (as well as Android OEMs) in reducing the anti-competitive threats against Android, as Drummond claims that, “Unless we act, consumers could face rising costs for Android devices — and fewer choices for their next phone.”

Naturally Microsoft has responded to Google’s claims, with Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate communications lead Microsoft, posting a message on Twitter aimed at Drummond. He said that Microsoft offered Google the opportunity to join the consortium (who won the bid in the end), but instead the search giant opted to go at it alone, hoping to score the patents for itself.

Drummond has updated his original post, stating that it is “obvious” why Google turned down Redmond’s offer to join the consortium. “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.”
 
“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.”

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