Google admits failure in copying iOS, excuses its patent infringement with Communist rhetoric
July 21st, 2012
Daniel Eran Dilger
Google has has issued its latest defense for having appropriated Apple’s intellectual property: an argument that insists some inventions are so good that they should be wrenched from their patent holders by the government and distributed to the proletariat of Android licensees so that Google can make unfettered money selling ads on its stolen platform.
After an initial attempt to insist that other company’s patents and other intellectual property simply don’t exist and can be infringed upon without limit, Google next embarked upon a multibillion dollar effort to assemble its own patent portfolio, including the $12 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, a sale that was expressly made to obtain its patents.
Google has since perpetuated Motorola’s own offensive patent attacks against competitors, seeking not just injunctions but injunctions based on Standards Essential Patents, a particular subset of patents that have already been dedicated to special Fair, Reasonable and NonDiscriminatory licensing terms by their holders.
This, in itself, was such a brazenly hypocritical action that it should have gotten Google booed off the stage, or at least seated at the children’s table next to other egregiously notorious patent trolls Proview and Lodsys. Google is actually worse than the run of the mill patent trolls because it constantly whines about freedom, openness and the threat of patent abuse. That is, until it gets its first opportunity to abuse patents itself.
Google is now backing up for more public defecation on its reputation. What could be more hypocritical than arguing two sides of an argument at the same time? On one hand, Google is insisting on the right to demand outrageous fees from Microsoft over patents essential to H.264. Remember when this shameless company was grandstanding about how H.264 was bad for the web because it involved patent licensing under FRAND?
Now that Google owns some H.264 patents, it’s proving itself the main abuser–if not the only major abuser–of H.264 FRAND patents. What a shameful bag of dicks!
That’s not even the tip of the iceberg of Google’s shameful behavior
While suing Microsoft over H.264 “infringement,” where infringement has been redefined by Google/Motorola to mean a refusal to pay unfair, unreasonable and discriminatory patent royalties on expressly FRAND patents, Google itself is insisting that it owes Oracle virtually nothing for appropriating its technology to quickly bring Android (a tweaked distro of JavaME on Linux) to market. And note that while Google’s copycat Android stomped all over Oracle’s legitimate Java platform, no part of Motorola or Google compete against Microsoft’s Xbox, the primary target of Google’s H.264 patent demands.
And if that level of hypocrisy isn’t enough, Google is now expanding its patent abuse to Apple, cowardly under the guise of “supporting” the Android licensees that float on its advertising platform.
And if that weren’t enough, Google is now insisting that if there are indeed any rules regarding patents voluntarily committed to open standards for interoperability (like, you know, H.264, the open standard Google was vociferously against until its own alternative failed and it subsequently paid billions to be in a position to abuse those very same FRAND patents it was stoking fear about, or UMTS and anything else Google is equally happy to abuse given the opportunity), the company now demands that everyone else’s successful patents should be automatically wrenched from their owners and provided to the proletariate for collective use.
Google’s egregiously hypocritical flavor of Communism
There are people who believe that the means of production should be taken from the people who own them and given to the population, collectively, to prevent abuse of the workers and to provide as fair and equal of distribution of wealth as possible. They’re called Communists.
The problem with Communism isn’t that it’s a bad sounding idea, it’s that it simply does not work in reality. There will always be flaws in huge systems intended to “fairly” distribute wealth and prosperity, and these have always resulted in Communism failing to provide for the very people it is supposed to be looking out for, and an even more unfair distribution of wealth than its alternatives. Even Communists don’t support Communism as it has ever been practiced anywhere on earth.
Google knows Communism doesn’t work at least as well as any other corporation. But it’s now using a purely Communist explanation of why it shouldn’t be forced to obey the rule of law in the area of patents. While on one hand Google has turned itself into the primary hub of patent abuse on the globe (in its desperate attempt to “defend” Android, which is itself a tall stack of patent infringements), it’s now claiming that Apple’s patented technologies must be taken away and given to Google to use to bolster its inability to maintain parity of innovation.
If Google was clearly and consistently voicing an anti-patent perspective, its particular brand of ideology could at least be respected as an opinion. The reality, however, is that Google barks about freedom and openness when it is in the company’s interests to steal ideas, and then turns around to demand outrageous fees over concepts that have already been committed to FRAND licensing terms with the express intention of fostering compatibility, not market control and profitability.
Patents vs the alternatives
There are many who believe that the world (or at least the software market) should be free of intellectual property barriers. I personally believe the lack of sufficient IP protection in the 1990s is what gave us a bleak period shoddy software led by Microsoft, a company that successfully stole ideas and sold third-rate copies, but didn’t give us anything new. That eventually led to Microsoft’s failure, but not before grinding progress to a virtual standstill during the Dark Ages of boring computing (1992-2002).
There is something profound about the fact that Apple could dust off NeXT technology from 1992 and deliver it as the hot product of 2002: Microsoft sure hadn’t delivered a decade worth of technology over that period. It had only skated to where the puck was in 1992 and then danced in a circle around it for the next ten years, eventually falling through the ice when it failed to calculate the trajectory of malware and security issues that were adding up as it did so.
At the same time, it’s also easy to imagine a parallel alternative world where, thanks to excessively strong patents, the Old Apple of the 1980s reigned through the 1990s with an effective monopoly on graphical computing, making lots of money but delivering no more innovation than Microsoft did. That wouldn’t have really been much better.
Or, alternatively, a series of empowered patent trolls could have appeared and nipped in the bud every advance to appear before it could ever take root. Imagine if some Non Practicing Entities’ patents had killed off the Macintosh, or the Palm Pilot, or OS X, or the smartphone, the iPod, the iPad or any other major game changer before they had the opportunity to change the tech landscape. Clearly, there needs to be a balance between IP anarchy and IP totalitarianism.
Google is way up shit creek
Imagine if patents had attacked Google. Oh wait! That actually did happen, because in the early days, Google just took its core search monetizing plan from Overture. Fortunately for Google, Yahoo acquired Overture and Google could simply offer Yahoo a bunch of stock to settle that issue. Don’t let Google’s current stories fool you, the company has believed in patents from the beginning. It knows what patents are worth, and knows how they work.
When Google stole Java’s copyright code for Android and then stole Apple’s patented iOS to make Android marketable, it knew very well what it was doing, and what it was risking. The company just hoped it could get away with it, or at least make enough money that it could just throw cash at the problems at some point in the future and move past them, the same way Microsoft handled anti-trust issues in the 1990s.
What Google didn’t calculate accurately (and calculation is Google’s core competency) its the risk of someone huge like Oracle buying Java and actually asserting Java’s IP rights. Or the tenacity of Apple in working to stop Android from stealing its American intellectual property and delivering it to enrich companies in Communist China. (And seriously, will all the people barking about Apple’s “failure” to bring assembly line jobs back from China at least give some thought to what it means for Google to be ripping off American technology and giving it to the Chinese for free?)
Google seems to appear to believe that if it can convince a bunch of fans to rally around nice-sounding concepts like “freedom” and “openness” that it can avoid the rule of law. It also seems to think that it can enter new markets by drumming up similar levels of enthusiasm in that same fan base. However, the strategic commercial products Google has delivered to these fans, from Google Wave to Buzz to Google+ to Honeycomb to Ice Cream Sandwich have all been absolute failures in the real market. ABSOLUTE FAILURES.
And it appears that exciting a nerd base isn’t going to create a buffer from reality in the legal realm, either.
Patent problems seem to be solving themselves
There is something else interesting occurring with patents, too. While everyone can legitimately complain about various aspects of the complex patent system, the fears that were expressed about a world unfairly dominated by patent holders simply isn’t materializing. Apple, Motorola and Oracle have lots of patents, but have all been struggling tooth and nail to enforce any of them in a way that really changes the technology landscape.
Apple isn’t preventing anyone from making functional smartphones or rectangular tablets. Apple is seeking to retain ownership of specific features associated with the iPhone or iPad, however. And when it comes down to it, it appears Apple’s efforts to make its iOS products better, sexier, more tightly integrated and more fun to use are all collectively having a bigger impact on the company’s success and market share that its ability to block copycats.
At the same time, it is important for legitimate patent holders to have to ability to seek legal redress when others infringe their legal rights. How to exactly handle all of these cases is a complex problem that requires legal discussion in the courts, because it’s easy to imagine how patent abuse could occur. Actually, no need to imagine when companies like Lodsys and Proview are on the prowl demanding money for things they clearly do not own.
But this appears to be working itself out, in no small part because companies like Apple have been fighting cases rather than just handing over huge sums of money. Some good examples: Microsoft was so afraid of Burst’s video patent lawsuit that it settled for $60 million, and onlookers expected Apple to end up paying at least $500 million. But Apple fought Burst and ended up paying only $10 million, in the process invalidating most of Burst’s patents.
Kodak’s new patent-centric business model was also initially working well, harvesting more than a half billion from first LG and then Samsung. But when it attacked Apple, the company fought back, invalidating its patents and ending up with nothing to pay but its own legal fees. Other companies are now fighting, rather than just throwing money at patent trolls and their weak patents.
In any event, Google is a primary patent abuser: as a predatory licensee of FRAND patents; as a willful, psychotic patent infringer; and as an unmatched hypocrite in spewing contradictory emotionalism about both patent rights and obligations. It’s hard to have pity for a company so diametrically opposed to honesty, real open markets, actual competition and the rule of law, particularly when it is so quick to exploit the legal system for its own selfish gain.
Boo on you a second time, Google.