Actions speak louder than words, so they say. Although search giant Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) isn’t included in "they," because the company would prefer you pay more attention to its words than its actions.
This week, the Technology Policy Institute is holding a conference in Aspen, Colorado, and Big G’s public policy director, Pablo Chavez, took the opportunity on Monday to discuss the broader patent system and the shortcomings thereof. There’s been much controversy in recent years over software patents, with much criticism over abuses of the system. Many companies are extracting hefty royalties over software patents, while the legitimacy of those same patents is frequently questioned. Chavez said:
One thing that we are very seriously taking a look at is the question of software patents, and whether in fact the patent system as it currently exists is the right system to incent innovation and really promote consumer-friendly policies.
Also, in response to a question, Chavez added:
We think that these patent wars are not helpful to consumers. They're not helpful to the marketplace. They're not helpful to innovation.
Chavez’s words echo sentiments made by Google’s Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, in an official blog post from a year ago entitled "When patents attack Android:"
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 that makes Android devices more expensive for consumers. They want to make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices. Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation.
Source: Official Google Blog.
Just three months ago, Google was able to successfully fend off a patent attack from software specialist Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) , when a jury ruled in favor of Google, that Android didn’t infringe on Oracle’s IP.
Just last Friday, Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility filed a fresh new patent infringement claim against Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) with the U.S. International Trade Commission, seeking an import ban on the devices. Motorola and Apple are no strangers in a patent court of law, and have been duking it out for years, but the most recent suit is notable because it’s the first offensive launched under Google’s flag after the search giant officially closed its acquisition of the device maker in May.
This case isn’t related to various standards-essential patents that Motorola has but, instead, centers around -- you guessed it -- software patents. A total of seven software patents are included in the complaint, covering features like location reminders and email notifications, among others. Motorola is basically targeting all major Apple products, including the iPod touch, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPad 3, Mac Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air.
Motorola issued a statement saying, "We would like to settle these patent matters, but Apple’s unwillingness to work out a license leaves us little choice but to defend ourselves and our engineers’ innovations."
A change of heart in three days? Not likely.
If you thought Google was being hypocritical just for making eyes with Motorola, that feeling must be intensified now that Big G is the proud owner of Moto. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Google’s bleeding attack dog targets Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) with more fresh suits, possibly as vengeance for Microsoft extracting so many Android royalties from gadget makers.
Microsoft and Motorola are also seasoned dueling partners, but the warfare will get more interesting now that Google has swallowed Motorola. Who knows -- one day, Microsoft may be able to get Android royalties out of Motorola, like it has with just about every single other Android OEM it’s pursued. Then, Google-owned Motorola would be paying Microsoft royalties over Google-owned Android. That’d be what I call ironic.
Google’s words followed its actions by just three days. Which one is louder to you?