back to article Google BLASTS BACK at Apple, Microsoft, Sony in Android patent WAR

Google has struck back at a patent-wielding consortium composed of industry heavy-hitters with a lawsuit seeking a judgment that neither Google nor any of its Android partners infringes on the group's patents. The move is the latest chapter in a saga that dates back to 2011, when Apple, BlackBerry, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, and …

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rockstar

Sadly in the corporate law world these kinds of actions leading to being a rockstar. Its like creating money out of thin air through legal extortion. Oh except for the fact somebody had to create something that would sell in the first place to get the money. Suckers.

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Re: rockstar

> Oh except for the fact somebody had to create something that would sell in the first place to get the money. Suckers.

Oh come now, everyone knows that people who do real work and make real things are not entitled to earn money from their labour, they do it for the love of it surely.

Only the lawyers and moneybags are allowed to make any money from anything.

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Re: Its like creating money out of thin air through legal extortion

I don't see how it's different from what Google does for living - they are creating money from thin air spying on its users and selling ads (they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns etc and so on. They do not even produce their own Android smartphones. Neither do they pay taxes fully).

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Re: Its like creating money out of thin air through legal extortion

Spying is covert and nefarious. Google doesn't spy, it gets to know people.

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Coat

Re: Google doesn't spy, it gets to know people

I agree fully -- the best way to know your frends better is to plant tracking devices into their pockets.

Mine with the one of course

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Re: Google doesn't spy, it gets to know people

Only they don't plant tracking devices into their pockets, they make tracking devices available which people then choose to put in their pockets.

For every google product available, there is one or more viable alternatives. I don't like their information gathering business model either, but i know that i can avoid their products and suffer no ill effects.

What's more i can even use some of their products while explicitly avoiding the information gathering aspects, e.g. third party builds of android and chromium to name but a few.

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Re: Google doesn't spy, it gets to know people

Planting tracking devices is covert and nefarious. Google doesn't plant tracking devices, it makes software for phones.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: rockstar

It looks like The Borg is going to get spanked again....This smells of desperation.

The Borg has lost every single patent battle to date with Microsoft and Nokia - the billions they spent on that Motorola patent portfolio seems to have been money down the drain....

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Devil

Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

They also claim that "pretty much everybody out there" infringes their patent.

…I'm sure it's pure coincidence that they started their first lawsuits against Google and Android phone makers.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

Well, since Apple and Microsoft are among their owners, one would assume that with ownership comes the privilege of a license to their patents, so of course they aren't going to sue Apple or Microsoft.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

Before multiple techies leap onto horses with 100ft long legs, let's not forget:

1) Google only complain about software patents on clients devices. Their entire business and core revenue stream was founded on software patents for Adwords. At the same time as claiming they were against software patents, strangely, they didn't mention or condemn their own.

2) Google were invited to join the Rockstar consortium on the basis the patents were a risk to the industry as a whole and if all the major tech companies bid together they could simply be taken out of contention (at least for the major tech companies), but Google chose not too join.

3) Google bid for the Nortel patents directly. Their thinking was probably that their patent position on client devices was weak and they needed the ammunition. But famously after a bizarre bidding strategy involving bidding amounts corresponding a variety of well known mathematical constants they lost the auction.

4) Many of the Motorola patents are held in patent holding companies to so they can leverage different legal jurisdictions. So really Google are complaining about the size of the holding company which holds patents that are effectively owned by a mother company (or companies) in order to obtain maximum leverage through legal channels. Not sure that their own holding companies are a smaller means they have a justifiable argument.

5) Motorola (owned, of course, by Google) are currently suing more companies for patent infringement than Rockstar.

So this strategy is hardly coming from a company in a superior moral position.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

I think Google's entire revenue stream has come from adverts - not the patent for adwords which would probably be laughed out of court if anyone tried to break it. Many others use what is essentially adwords in their product and have never been sued.

They have never attacked with patents - they have lots but they use them defensively which is why MS et all formed Rockstar - so that they could attack Google without actually inciting a response which would pretty much result in the scorched earth of software patent destruction, something Google would probably like to see but cant be bothered wasting time on it unless it has to.

You seem to be supporting the school bully because someone is fighting back so they must be the aggressor which is frankly bollocks. Google may have been cowardly in not provoking the showdown earlier but they cant be accused of starting this.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

do google go around suing other tech companies?

Its really only the US market that is the problem for software Patents from what I've heard, Apple lost in Europe quite rightly.

Samsung lost in South Korea, and that again was the right decision.

Samsung lost in the USA, on mind numbingly stupid patents that should never have been granted..

Apple not banned in the USA for admittedly breaching Samsung's patents, where they should have been forced to disclose their other licensing agreements to the judge and have them set the license fee Apple should pay. If Apple & Samsung squabble over FRAND patents then Apple and Samsung should have been sent to the naughty chair while a judge made the decision for them!

The way I look at it, the USA may be a handy market for getting suckers to buy your product, but with only 310 million potential customers, which is only about 4.5% of the worlds population, why worry, just focus your products on more sensible markets, forget providing technology to the unwashed masses of North America.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

"I think Google's entire revenue stream has come from adverts"

Google have software patents in number of areas. 1) around link analysis which was central to the success of their search engine. 2). Their adwords patents cover the process for bidding for adwords, the key USP for their ad-platform which was the central reason their ad platform excelled over Yahoo's offering. These patents are pure software patents. Yahoo would dearly love to have implemented an adwords competitor but didn't and had to leave the business to Google.

"They have never attacked with patents"

Nonsense, Motorola have initiated multiple patent actions against multiple parties. More incidentally than either Apple or Rockstar. The US Trade department and EU commission have both found their attacks to be an "abuse of a dominant position."

"which is why MS et all formed Rockstar - so that they could attack Google"

You have ignored the fact Google were invited to join the consortium but declined.

"You seem to be supporting the school bully because someone is fighting back so they must be the aggressor which is frankly bollocks."

Neatly ignoring the logic of fact that Google hold software patents on Adwords predating any of this. Do you really think Google would not have sued Yahoo if Yahoo implemented adwords functionality when Google was eating their advertising revenues for breakfast?

And the fact is Google have form as a serial bully steamrollering IP owned by other companies and individuals. Youtube was built on copyright infringement (and recognising that they had to set aside a multi-billion dollar legal fund to fight the sue balls they were expecting but have since mitigated the risk by amending their policy and partnering with content owners). Google images is mostly a destination in itself and utilised copyrighted images without permission (but individual owners aren't bothered enough and the images aren't worth enough to sue over - take 1 cent off every user and, if you're Google, nothing will happen to you). Google maps cars were slurping private data with impunity and even hacking WiFi router security to do so (and it eventually emerged Google had lied about it being a management policy that they should do this). Let's not even start on what they were initially pushing for with Google Books. Then having grown a culture of operating with impunity, they copy functionality implemented patented by another big business and act all offended when they get sued... Bear in mind, in the recent book "Dogfight," Google's Chris DeSalvo admitted on first seeing the iPhone:

“As a consumer I was blown away. I wanted one immediately. But as a Google engineer, I thought ‘We’re going to have to start over.’”

and you are seriously claiming Google were an innocent happy company going along minding their own business and would not have sued other companies infringing their server side software patents and Apple had no right to defend against Google infringements? Google are a fiercely competitive commercial entity that has steamrollered any business they think they can, and roundly abused IP owned by others until they bumped into Apple. I'm not claiming Apple are any better here (as you seem to be claiming for Google). I on the other hand, am merely pointing out they are businesses and this is the playing field on which they are competing and the proposition Google are some cuddly defender of the rights of independent engineers is woefully misguided.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

+1

When a chinese no-name android tablet can be bought for ~30usd in Asia and the phone probably isnt much more, all this does is encourage the rest of the world to solve problems that are relevant to it.

These actions damage the interests of US consumers (they dont get cheap stuff) and US manufacturers (cost of business, and their interests are diverging from the rotw).

Those no-name asian sellers certainly wont be paying dangeld to Rockstar (I thought the drinks manufacturer / games publisher might have had something to say about the name) but is Google is lucky, may have google on it.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

"they didn't mention or condemn their own" - the problem is, they exist in a situation where if they did not patent the AdWords concept, somebody else would have and probably would be dumb enough to go after them for it (prior art doesn't often seem to be a concept understood). What would be more telling is not "oh look, Google has patents" but rather "has Google been actively going after companies who infringe upon Google's patents"? There is such a thing as a defensive patent (sadly enough).

"if all the major tech companies bid together they could simply be taken out of contention" ........these would be the same major tech companies that are all slapping each other around?

"Their thinking was probably that their patent position on client devices was weak and they needed the ammunition." - "probably"? Their thinking could have just as easily been "let's drop some cash on this stuff and get it off the playing field". One might suggest their interesting bidding was an indicator of how seriously they actually took it.

"So really Google are complaining about the size of the holding company which holds patents that are effectively owned by a mother company" - it isn't just that. The idea of pushing off stuff like this to holding companies is also so that if the whole thing is decided to be a farce and the company is clobbered legally, the holding company takes the brunt and the very obvious parent company comes out unscathed. Therefore MegaCorp can just spawn off little companies to assert patents, and if they are dismissed, the amount of damages can be considerably less than going after MegaCorp directly; yet if the patent is upheld, it is a win for MegaCorp. Small company can directly sue for BILLIONS, but if it goes wrong, how many assets can be recouped from a small company? Essentially it is a form of limiting exposure to liability of the parent company.

"Motorola (owned, of course, by Google) are currently suing more companies" - how many are defensive and how many were initiated prior to Google's acquisition?

"in a superior moral position" - it is American patent law. I don't think "moral" applies anywhere.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

"but have since mitigated the risk by amending their policy and partnering with content owners" - or alternatively they are managing, at least in part, to talk some sense to content distributors that the relative ease of pushing video files around is going to make home taping look comically prehistoric, and there is a potential market here, if only the distributors wake up to this fact. I mean, how often has it been lamented here that there are many of us that would pay to download an XviD to watch on the device of our choosing? More and more this is possible with music. But with video? It is still tied in all sorts of awkward ways.

"Google images is mostly a destination in itself and utilised copyrighted images without permission" - including some of mine; however the content served up is not served up from Google itself. The thumbnail and preview are fairly low resolution, the link goes directly to the main image. And some sites trap this and throw you into the site itself instead of allowing the raw image to be served up. Some sites serve up an "oi! get off my lawn!" style image instead. ;-)

"Google maps cars were slurping private data with impunity and even hacking WiFi router security to do so" - "private" data? This being information that the user thought was private but was actually being broadcast with no form of encryption whatsoever so anybody with a WiFi interface could have just as easily been reading everything. This, if nothing else, should have been a wake-up call to the users. In a world where you are responsible for the data passing in and out of your IP address, leaving it wide open is irresponsible. Sure, slurping the data is also irresponsible, let's not forget that.

For what it is worth, the same applies with public WiFi. If your tablet or what-have-you autoconnects to open networks and helpfully checks for mail using traditional POP3 - who have you just bleated your login info and password to? Everybody within reception range. That's who. Chances are, nobody will be running a data logger. Maybe it'll be okay in a bar in a provincial town, but is that a chance you are willing to take in a crowded place like a railway station or airport offering open free WiFi? It is not difficult to slurp. Remember that.

As for "hacking", I'm sorry. No. I do not define "receiving open broadcasts" to be hacking any more than I would be hacking by turning on the radio.

"Google are a fiercely competitive commercial entity that has steamrollered any business they think they can" - probably, yes. It is with some sense of irony that I recall Google first get into the search business because they were lean and didn't fill their search results with adverts and rubbish like Altavista used to do. When you went on-line with 14k4 and 28k8 modems, this made a very measurable difference.

"until they bumped into Apple" - two wildly egotistical companies that have the attitude of doing what they like. It's rather like having two male cats in the same garden...

"proposition Google are some cuddly defender of the rights of independent engineers is woefully misguided" - it would be nice if they either open sourced their unwanted ideas, or passed them over to a willing tech to run as a hobby. Google certainly has the habit of creating good ideas, getting bored with them, and then abandoning them. Which isn't so useful to people who actually liked/used those things. Certainly, I think a number of people will be weaning themselves off of Google projects because you never can tell what might get the axe next, and also their relentless push to try to integrate Google+ is going to do them harm in the long run. An example? I upload stuff on YouTube (and I have viewership in double-digits, so I'm hardly worthy of attention). Following the whole Google+/comments thing, I just turn off commenting entirely. While I don't count for much, I'm not alone in doing this. How do we make it clear to Google that... Plus? No thank you.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

@DougS yet there are a couple of Microsoft handset producers in the list of companies being sued (Samsung and htc both make WP8 phones).

Maybe they were seen as easy prey, as they had already signed patent deals with MS.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

Google would never base it's business model on ripping off other peoples intellectual property ;)

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

quote: "As for "hacking", I'm sorry. No. I do not define "receiving open broadcasts" to be hacking any more than I would be hacking by turning on the radio."

Unfortunately some jurisdictions do consider any unauthorised use of computing equipment a crime, to whit the UK's Computer Misuse Act (1990) section 1:

"1 Unauthorised access to computer material.

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if—

(a)he causes a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer [or to enable any such access to be secured] ;

(b)the access he intends to secure, [or to enable to be secured,] is unauthorised; and

(c)he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that that is the case."

This would of course include a situation such as overhearing someone speak login details in a public place; whilst you would have the correct credentials for access, the legal "reasonable person" would of course know that you were not specifically given those credentials, and thus were not empowered with rights (authorisation) to use those credentials. Like people shoulder-surfing cashpoints; seeing someone enter their PIN does not authorise you to use that PIN yourself, you must be specifically granted that authorisation by the cardholder ;)

Receiving the broadcast is legal, but acting upon the information received is a whole different kettle of fish. And illegal, in the UK at least.

Stupid, yes, overly protectionist, yes, but it is intended to criminalise and punish the perpetrator, rather than punish the inept admin (or the large corporate entity they work for) who refused to properly hash and salt the passwords stored in the <banking/gaming/government> database which was subsequently breached by a basic SQL injection attack. It's to protect companies who do not (or cannot) properly secure their own data, but it (by sheer coincidence) also protects idiot consumers who do not (or cannot) secure their data either.

If you're not based in the UK, I would suggest carefully reading your local version of computer misuse legislation, to ensure that you are aware what is and is not acceptable in your locality. I suspect you may find it is very similar to the UK, and that simply overhearing credentials does not in fact grant you any implicit authorisation to use them ;)

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@big_D

@DougS yet there are a couple of Microsoft handset producers in the list of companies being sued (Samsung and htc both make WP8 phones).

Maybe they were seen as easy prey, as they had already signed patent deals with MS.

--

The patent deals they sign with Microsoft only count towards patents Microsoft owns, not patents Microsoft has a license to. You can't give someone rights to something you don't own, but only license, unless the license allows sub-licensing.

Rockstar is perfectly within their rights to sue Samsung and HTC, whether or not they have patent deals with MS, because those deals don't cover the patents that Rockstar owns. They buy Windows Phone software as a product from Microsoft to install on their phones, so any Rockstar patents in Windows Phone software is covered, but nothing stops Rockstar suing over their Android phones. If Nokia starts making Android phones it might find itself sued as well, who knows?

Are you saying that Rockstar should be nice and avoid suing anyone who makes Windows Phones? That would make for an interesting defense if Apple wasn't in Rockstar and iOS violated some of its patents. Apple might make a token number of Windows Phones just to avoid having Rockstar sue them :)

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Re: @Doug

my point exactly. They have already signed deals with MS, so are likely to sign a deal with Rockstar.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

(2) Which Rockstar seem more than happy to prove themselves. Nice little business you have here, shame if someone was to bust it up.

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

How much license fees does Rockstar gets from Microsoft and Apple?

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Re: Rockstar claims to be independent from Apple and Microsoft

"... patents were a risk to the industry as a whole and if all the major tech companies bid together they could simply be taken out of contention" If this the aim of Rockstar consortium then why are they suing Google?

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Anonymous Coward

is Sony the height of absurdity

So Sony is part of (or at least party to) this Rockstar patent troll Group, while at the same time Sony manufactures and sells Android devices?

I can't imagine Google's lawyers being so naive or incompetent as to not have written a "no patent claims" clause in their OEM Android license contract.

If this is indeed a case of Sony suing itself for patent infringement, this should be enough to dismiss the lawsuit. In a normal world, that is.

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Re: is Sony the height of absurdity

I imagine them buying into it as a protection point. "If we go in with them, we'll be safe" and more then likely they wanted some of the other patents for their different product sections.

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Re: is Sony the height of absurdity

"If this is indeed a case of Sony suing itself for patent infringement, this should be enough to dismiss the lawsuit. In a normal world, that is."

I didn't see anything in the article stating that Rockstar was suing Sony. I would think that Sony, being a co-owner of the patents in suit, would have a right to use those patents.

But you're right. In a normal world, a lawsuit by Sony against Sony for infringing on patents owned by Sony would, indeed, be dismissed.

So that's a good insight on your part.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: is Sony the height of absurdity

> I didn't see anything in the article stating that Rockstar was suing Sony.

Rockstar is not suing Sony. Rockstar is suing Google.

Rockstar is a consortium backed by a Group of companies and Sony is a member of this Group. Google develops and manufactures Android. Sony manufactures and sells Android-based products, and Sony is an Android and Google licensee.

When Rockstar is suing Google claiming that Android is infringing on patents Rockstar owns, Sony is indirectly suing itself, because Sony is part of this Rockstar group, and, at the same time, Sony is a licensee, manufacturer and distributor of Android-based products.

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Re: is Sony the height of absurdity

In one of the more humorous incidents of the IP wars, once upon a time one division of Xerox sued another division of Xerox before the head office stepped in and put a stop to their shenanigans. They are not the only company to do so. None as funny as this joke on Apple though: http://thedailypixel.com/2012/09/13/apple-sues-itself-for-infringing-all-of-its-own-patents/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: is Sony the height of absurdity

They're not suing Google to destroy Android. They want to sell licenses covering what patented stuff is in Android, so others will pay to have the right to use it. Of course, Sony, seeing itself as the owner of those licenses, would have an automatic right to use Android with respect to those bits.

So while yes, it is convoluted, It is not contradictory.

(Not that I agree with any of this, but I do try to understand the rationale of that lawyering process).

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Re: is Sony the height of absurdity

At that point Sony was not yet shipping all of their high end stereos including car units running android and Sony phones were still Sony-Ericsson - not directly managed by Sony. I do not see them doing it today.

As far as what is in a normal world and what not, calling the world today normal is probably an oxymoron...

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Re: is Sony the height of absurdity

Missing another point here AC. Sony will benefit from both outcomes of this trial. If the trolls win they could become one of the biggest suppliers of android phones whilst hiding under the protective umbrella of the trolls. Personally I think this will be the case that will show the trolls for what they are and will eventually change the way the corrupt US patent system is today.

If I was a betting man I would put my money on Google winning this and the trolls will slowly start to dis-associate themselves from Rockstar as the case comes closer

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Re: iSony is indirectly suing itself

Wrong. Sony is licensed to both Rockstar's and Android's patents, so it's entitled to use Rockstar technology [present in Android, if that's true].

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Re: is Sony the height of absurdity or Google?

Google are the ones who rejected joining the group.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: is Sony the height of absurdity

It's a hangover from when Ericcson, before Sony bought them. Guessing they aren't really part of this, but going along for the ride, seeing how it plays out. Kinda win/win for them.

Perhaps they should sell their share to Google :-)

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Mushroom

On another site it is reported that Google have specifically in their request for trial - called out the fact that the Consortium behind Rockstar are actively suing Android manufacturers like HTC and Samsung for their Android devices BUT NOT their Windows (or other OS) devices which would clearly infringe on some of the same patents IF if is found that their Android devices do infringe. That is what makes this much more interesting. As someone elsewhere wrote in the comments on an article about this - they have poked the sleeping giant too many times, and now - he has awoken.

It reminds me a bit, of a cat pawing at a dog - the dog will only tolerate it for so long.... and then it will bare it's teeth.

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@ Andrew Jones 2

Here's a quote from your post:

"Rockstar are actively suing Android manufacturers like HTC and Samsung for their Android devices BUT NOT their Windows (or other OS) devices which would clearly infringe on some of the same patents IF if is found that their Android devices do infringe. "

Here's a quote from the story:

"The move is the latest chapter in a saga that dates back to 2011, when Apple, BlackBerry, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, and Sony teamed up to buy the patent portfolio of failed telecoms vendor Nortel for $4.5bn, beating out Google's own $900m bid."

Here's my question to you:

Do you think that the fact that Microsoft is one of the members of the consortium that bought the patents could in some way relate to the fact that the consortium is not targeting Windows devices?

Is that possible, do you think?

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It seems to have skipped your notice

But Windows phones have their software written by Microsoft, who then sell it to OEMs patent paid. It would be effectively Microsoft suing Microsoft. With Android NON of the patents are paid by Google.

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At which point

1)Cat enters battle and wins - cats are vicious little sods, most dogs are softies in comparison.

2)Cat escapes via cat flap or other escape route.

3)Dog chases cat, causes damage and is expelled from house.

4)Dog chases cat, cat jumps onto owners lap, dog is expelled from house.

In the latter 2 cases it's because mean, nasty dog is chasing poor, harmless little cat.

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Pint

Aim for the stars!

Maybe the jury will find that the Google hasn't violated the patents, making them worthless to RockStar. Once they realize they can't monetize the IP they'll slag it off to Google for pennies on the dollar. Then the world can live happily ever after.

Or the lawyers will continue to be lawyers and we'll see RockStar drag out these desperate patent cases for years.

Either way I'll be at the bar having a pint.

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Re: Aim for the stars!

Rockstar is said to have put some of their patents up for sale. Perhaps they are... running out of energy? Maybe there is something they could take for that.

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How quickly we forget

The Google defenders around here seem to forget that Google themselves thought that the patents were worth at least 900 million bucks. What was Google going to do if they purchased them? Here's a hint. They weren't going to give them to the EFF and Linux - they were going to do exactly what this entity is doing to Google. Google was even invited into the consortium that purchased the patents - but wanted to go their own way.

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Re: How quickly we forget

Didn't the Justice Department okay this sale only after being assured that it wasn't going to be used for aggressive litigation, or something like that? Shouldn't there be a really big *AHEM* from the courts about now and a smack to the tune of about $1B? It's no secret who's in that conglomerate, and likely to not be a secret for long which patents are being asserted. Thus they can just divide the fine for perjury up.

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@ Blarkon: Re: How quickly we forget

"Google was even invited into the consortium that purchased the patents - but wanted to go their own way."

And they explicitly stated that the reason for their refusal was that being only part owners of the Nortel patents would prevent them from asserting those patents against others - including, and especially (one would have to presume) the other parties who joined the consortium.

So they're getting sued over these patents by other parties because they wanted to use these patents to... to sue those other parties!

Clever.

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Re: How quickly we forget

Blarkon, it might be because Google has never done it before. They only counter-sued as a response when some other companies (let's not name those ones from Redmond and Cupertino) having sued Google exactly for patent infringement.

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@Turtle

Did it ever occur to you that the real reason for Google to not chip in with MS and Apple was inability to use those patents to counter-sue against other patent suits MS and Apple bullying Google directly and through their partners? MS and Apple have plenty of other bogus patents like rounded corners, rubber band and exFat long file names.

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Re: @ Blarkon: How quickly we forget

Google only buy patents to defend themselves against attack by others, sharing them doesn't provide that defence - it adds them to the list of attackers.

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Re: How quickly we forget

Bloody fool, they pulled out simply because they knew the patents were going to be trolled which is against their policy. Just sit and look at the list of trolls in that Rockstar consortium. Sony (thousands of artists, directors have been royally screwed by these and took them to court. Microsoft..need we say any more? Apple..again speaks for themselves..

Only a person with a weak mind wouldn't be able to see what these trolls were going to do

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