News24

Google lashes out at Microsoft, Nokia

2012-06-01 20:16

San Francisco - Google lashed out at Microsoft and Nokia in a regulatory complaint, accusing them of illegally feeding mobile patents to a technology troll scavenging for billions of dollars in licensing fees that threaten to drive up the prices of cellphones and other wireless devices.

The claims were spelled out in a complaint filed with the European Commission, the chief regulator on that continent. Google also shared the complaint with the US Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

Microsoft brushed off Google's accusations as the "desperate tactic" of a company facing regulatory questions about its dominance of online search and digital advertising. Efforts to reach Nokia representatives at the company's headquarters in Finland late on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Google's attack on Microsoft and Nokia escalates a legal brawl among technology giants trying to gain the upper hand in the rapidly growing market for mobile computing.

Most of the fighting so far has been in the courtroom, where lawsuits and countersuits alleging patent infringements have been filed by Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Oracle, Nokia, and HTC, among others.

Royalties

Some of the missives have been aimed at Google and its business partners using its Android software for smartphones and other mobile devices. To protect itself, Google picked up 17 000 mobile patents in a $12.5bn acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings that was completed last week.

Nokia joined forces with Microsoft in 2011 when it agreed to adopt Windows as the operating system on its cellphones.

Google's complaint centres on 2 000 wireless patents that Nokia and Microsoft sold in September to Mosaid Technologies Inc, a company that specialises in collecting royalties on intellectual property.

Companies that focus on extracting patent royalties instead of innovating are derisively known in the technology industry as "trolls".

Mosaid has made it clear it believes it is sitting on a potential gold mine.

After Nokia and Microsoft handed over the patents, Mosaid estimated the royalties from the intellectual property rights could bring it more $1bn in revenue over the next decade.

Under terms of the sale, Mosaid keeps one-third of the revenue from the patent royalties with the remainder going to Nokia and Microsoft. That mean's Mosaid's revenue estimates imply the patents could generate licensing fees of $3bn during the next decade.

Competition

Mosaid declined to comment. The company, which is based in Ottawa, Ontario, already is suing iPhone and iPad maker Apple for alleged patent infringement in a Texas federal court.

The portfolio that Nokia and Microsoft transferred to Mosaid is valuable because about 1 200 of the patents are considered to be "essential" to the operation of most mobile devices running on 2G, 3G and 4G wireless networks.

Some of the patents cover parts of open-source software known as the Linux Kernel, a form of freely available computer coding that Google used in building its Android operating system.

Google alleges Mosaid is reneging on a commitment that Nokia made in a 2005 regulatory filing when the company pledged not to enforce patents against software relying on the Linux Kernel.

"Nokia and Microsoft are colluding to raise the costs of mobile devices for consumers, creating patent trolls that side-step promises both companies have made," Google said in a statement. "They should be held accountable, and we hope our complaint spurs others to look into these practices."

In its statement, Microsoft alluded to investigations in the US and Europe into allegations that Google has been abusing its influential role in internet search to thwart competition and increase advertising rates.

Google "is complaining about antitrust in the smartphone industry when it controls more than 95% of mobile search and advertising", Microsoft said. "This seems like a desperate tactic on their part."

Comments
  • johanvvuuren - 2012-06-01 20:51

    Maybe the richest of those companies should buy-out all the others and spend less time and money in courts and do more innovate development/research. Looks like they've ran out of ideas and are buying/selling patents to keep busy.

      bear.man.338 - 2012-06-01 22:42

      that would be called a monopoly... and monopolies tend to inflate prices because......................why not? no competition.

      Preshen - 2012-06-04 09:11

      Nokia is like Bin laden was the bomb but now is dead

  • Francois R Nel - 2012-06-01 21:27

    Have cell phone companies not learned their lesson that windows dont work well with cell phones. An Aple a day keeps the windows at bay

  • etleroux - 2012-06-01 23:05

    The world should be free of software patents, they simply don't work and are stretched out for maximum (ab)use by the patent holders. Simply registering patents the patent office doesn't fully understand is also of no help...

  • Mandy Casey - 2012-06-02 00:33

    So Microsoft own a patent on some source code used in the Linux kernel. Therefore if anyone uses this software for financial gain, like android is, then Bill can knock on Larry's door for payment. And rightly so if they wrote the software.

      frikdt - 2012-06-02 06:35

      I can't help wondering what patents they're talking about; maybe it's something like this (taken from Linux History on wikipedia)? "In July 2009, Microsoft submitted 22,000 lines of source code to the Linux kernel under the GPLV2 license, which were subsequently accepted. Although this has been referred to as "a historic move" and as a possible bellwether of an improvement in Microsoft's corporate attitudes toward Linux and open-source software, the decision was not altogether altruistic, as it promised to lead to significant competitive advantages for Microsoft and avoided legal action against Microsoft. Microsoft was actually compelled to make the code contribution when Vyatta principal engineer and Linux contributor Stephen Hemminger discovered that Microsoft had incorporated a Hyper-V network driver, with GPL-licenced open source components, statically linked to closed-source binaries in contravention of the GPL licence. Microsoft contributed the drivers to rectify the licence violation, although the company attempted to portray it as a charitable act, rather than one to avoid legal action against it."

      Phoenix - 2012-06-02 07:48

      No frik that was infringement of GPL, a totally different issue to patents.

  • Phoenix - 2012-06-02 07:50

    This is VERY rich considering that Google stole Ideas behind Android from Apple while on the Apple board. Jobs hated Google for this till he died.

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