Microsoft has struck back at Google’s accusations that the company has – with Apple and Oracle – waged a “hostile, organized campaign” against the search giant, including joining forces to buy up patents and keep them out of Google’s grasp. “Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really?” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith tweeted rhetorically. “We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.” That drew out Microsoft corporate communications lead Frank X. Shaw, who offered Google chief legal officer David Drummond some “free advice” by posting an email exchanged between legal execs at both firms.
That email, a response from Google general counsel Kent Walker to Microsoft’s Smith, specifically mentions the patent purchase olive branch that was extended, but which Google declined. “After talking with people here” Walker writes, “it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us on this one.”
Microsoft, Apple and others went on to purchase patent caches from Norvell and, most recently, Nortel, and it’s in part those transactions which Google’s original blog post took such issue with. “A smartphone might involve as many as 250,000 (largely questionable) patent claims, and our competitors want to impose a “tax” for these dubious patents” Drummond claimed. “Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation.”
A single email in a conversation chain doesn’t paint the whole picture, of course, and the terms of the deal Microsoft was suggesting may well have been Google’s tipping point rather than the idea of joining a coalition with its rivals. Still, with each company holding significant legal budgets, and the patent war showing no sign of slowing down, we’re left wondering which player will add to the story next.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you — I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we’re open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.
I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
[via Business Insider]