There’s something rotton in the state of tech. (And it’s not Apple, well not totally).
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|Pictured: Eric Schmidt, Google Executive Chairman giving the peace sign (ahh, bless!).
“The tech industry has a significant problem,” says Google General Counsel Kent Walker. “Software patents are kind of gumming up the works of innovation.”
“It’s hard to find what’s the best path — there’s so much litigation,” he said, referring to recent legal cases, which includes HTC’s fight with Apple, the later which claims its Taiwanese rival pinched ten patents in a case file on March 10 last.
HTC has said it is prepared to “vigorously fight” a preliminary ruling made earlier this month by the International Trade Commission (ITC) in the US, who deliberated it infringed two of Apple’s patents (5,946,647 and 6,343,263) said to be critical to Android OS functionality, the platform which HTC bases its smartphones including Sensation and Desire S.
Steve Jobs’ giant Apple is also seeking to ban U.S. imports of HTC models including Droid Incredible, Wildfire, EVO 4G and Desire phones and the Flyer tablet.
The ITC decision, to be finalised in December, could have direct and potentially devastating business implications for other Android carriers and thus Google itself who said they are “exploring a variety of different things,” Walker revealed in a recent interview.
One such ‘thing’ is to snatch up patents holders like InterDigital or Eastman Kodak Co, although Walker declined to comment if his company were involved in bidding for either.
“Buying patents so you can hit the other guy, it’s not good form,” Walker said.
Google recently pledged to help HTC fend off the legal threat from Apple, saying ” we will make sure they don’t lose,” and would help its Android carriers in any way the could, although the search giant are not in the business of suing, he added.
“You hate to unilaterally disarm here, but we haven’t in our history. Each side can blow the other up on some level –everybody can block the other’s products from coming to market. You create this mutually assured destruction scenario, but it’s very expensive to get all those munitions.”
Walker is right, you only have to read the pages of any business or tech website on any given day to witness the astonishing level of patent claims market rivals bring against each other.
And its not just HTC Apple has their eagle eye on – Cupertino is also entangled in high profile, messy patent case with another Android enemy, Samsung, as well as Motorlola, the makers of Atrix.
Just yesterday, Smarthouse reported on how iPhone and Android app developers are being sued by a patent holding company Lodsys in the US, seeking damages and usage fees, with other patent holders also making copycat claims.
Lodsys is also suing Samsung, Motorola and Apple.
Although Google aren’t in the business of suing, it won’t take the patents war lying down: “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,” Walker says.
The Android creator already failed in its $900 million bid to buy the patents owned by now defunct Nortel Networks, by a consortia consisting of arch iOS rival Apple and RIM BlackBerry, according to Bloomberg.
Buying up patents is a strategy HTC are already actively engaging in – last month it acquired loss making software company S3 for $300 million, which was recently embroiled in a legal battle with Apple, thus could be useful ammunition in its current struggle with the iPhone maker.
The Sensation maker already pays huge royalties to Microsoft (said to be $5 per handset ) for smartphone patents used in another patents case which came to resolution last year. Samsung may also be forced to fork out up to $15 per handset sold to the software giant, Microsoft, in a case yet to be resolved.
So, why all the suing? Apple are bricking it over the threat Android now poses, Google believes. “We have seen an explosion of Android devices entering the market and, because of our successes, competitors are responding with lawsuits as they cannot respond through innovations,” Eric Schmidt, Google Executive Chairman said at a recent mobile event in Toyko.
“The big news in the past year has been the explosion of Google Android handsets and this means our competitors are responding,” he added.