Google’s Schmidt Finds It Curious that Apple Hasn’t Sued Google

| Analysis

Eric Schmidt is Curious Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is Curious

Google chairman Eric Schmidt finds it curious that Apple hasn't sued his company. We find that to be a curious choice of words, but it does raise the question of what is Apple's current end-game for its patent war with Android.

Adults

Mr. Schmidt's comments were part of an interview the tech exec gave to The Wall Street Journal. When asked how the relationship between Apple and Google have changed during the last year—a year in which we saw Larry Page take over from Mr. Schmidt as CEO of Google and Steve Jobs pass away and leave his company to Tim Cook—Mr. Schmidt said that both companies were adults about their competition.

"It's always been on and off," he said about that relationship." Obviously, we would have preferred them to use our maps. They threw YouTube off the home screen [of iPhones and iPads]. I'm not quite sure why they did that."

He then ridiculed the press for pursuing and portraying a "sort of teenage model of competition." He said that model is based around the idea of, "I have a gun, you have a gun, who shoots first?" but that this misses the reality.

"The adult way to run a business is to run it more like a country," he said. "They have disputes, yet they've actually been able to have huge trade with each other. They're not sending bombs at each other."

He said that Messrs. Cook and Page both understand this, and that, "When they and their teams meet, they have just a long list of things to talk about."

Patents

When asked if Apple and Google are discussing a patent settlement, Mr. Schmidt (rightly) deflected, saying simply that talks between the two companies, "are going on all the time," and that patents are one of the areas that are discussed.

He then added the line that we found curious: "It's extremely curious that Apple has chosen to sue Google's partners and not Google itself."

Curiouser and Curiouser

One way to read Mr. Schmidt's comment is that he thinks Apple has reason to sue Google, and finds it curious that Apple hasn't pursued that option. That's an unsophisticated reading, however, as Mr. Schmidt has his own brand of mastery when it comes to delivering messages through the press.

Steve Jobs had his infamous "reality distortion field," or RDF, but Mr. Schmidt has often uttered cryptic and/or pointed comments that usually reveal something he wanted to reveal, rather than simply being mistakes. Mr. Schmidt is an exceedingly intelligent person, and he chooses his words carefully.

Would You Like To Play A Game?

The reality is that when Apple first began suing Android OEMs for infringing on its design and utility patents, many assumed that it would rack up some wins and then use those wins to go after Google itself. Steve Jobs famously called Android a "stolen product," and that he would go to thermonuclear war to right that wrong.

Current CEO Tim Cook has taken a quieter approach, but he has made it clear that it would be unacceptable for Apple to be the inventor for the world.

In the process of engaging in this patent war, Apple has won many victories, though most of those victories are in the appeals process or were won so late in a product's lifespan that they were moot. Apple has even settled with one company, HTC, one of the first companies it sued.

What Apple hasn't done, however, is sue Google. It's not too late, of course. Apple could still sue Google. The company could be waiting to secure what it thinks would be a knockout blow against Android itself, or the company may simply be trying not to over-extend itself. The battles with Samsung and Motorola are enormous fights in and of themselves, and a fight against Google proper will be a taxing one.

Or Not?

It's also possible, however, that Google was never the target, or if it was, that changes in the landscape have made Google a difficult or otherwise undesirable target to hit.

Still, it's highly unusual for a top executive of a multibillion dollar corporate giant to express dismay that his company hasn't been sued. Google and its top execs tend to play by different rules than the ones foisted off on other companies, but it was definitely a curious choice of words.

There's more in the full interview about antitrust concerns (whatever), Mr. Schmidt's willingness to accept a government post (no), and the state of Android fragmentation (denial).

Comments

nealg

Is this really true? Isn’t Motorola part of Google and didn’t Apple sue Motorola?

If Schmidt is talking about Google proper not being sued, my layman understanding of this whole thing is that Apple hasn’t sued Google because there are no real profits off of the patent infringement since they really don’t make any money off of Android and therefore damages would be small.

With Samsung, there are lots of direct profits off of their alleged patent infringement of Apple patents so Apple has sued Samsung. At least that is my understanding of the situation.

I really wonder what Schmidt’s angle on this is? Seems pretty weird to me, like you said, a company officer wondering out loud why they haven’t been sued. I wonder if Apple could use some of these statements in court?

Adam Weibling

Its a little thing called precedent. Win some cases and then go after the big fish. Google must be wishing they would just get it over with lol.

ibuck

Legal types can correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s not a question of Google’s profits from Android, but the loss of sales and profits by Apple due to any alleged infringing Google action.

wab95

Bryan:

I concur with your statement that Schmidt is a very intelligent man who chooses his words carefully. A part of the mastery of expression is economy of words couched in multiple layers of meaning, housed in understatement. To the layman, only the most superficial meaning may be apparent, to the intended audience, the other multiple meanings are as plain as day.

That said, regarding Schmidt’s statement that he finds it ‘curious’ that Apple has chosen to sue Google’s partners rather than Google, note that nowhere does he infer that he does not understand what may be going on, only that he is intrigued at the approach. I am reminded of another master’s statement, namely Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, of the ‘art of fighting without fighting’. This is a time-honoured tradition amongst true martial artists in defeating an opponent without throwing so much as a single roundhouse punch or kick. If Apple succeeds in taking down the easier prey, to where does Google have to turn? If their OEMs are effectively neutralised, does Apple even have to go after the harder target of Google itself? That could, likely would, be a costlier battle to both companies. If Apple takes down the hardware manufacturers on legalities related to software, the software has to change if it is to be ported to the hardware - without even having to take Google to court. Google, Schmidt particularly, understand this. Undoubtedly, Schmidt would have preferred Apple to take them on directly, and were likely better prepared to defend Android than were any of their OEMs, apart from Samsung. Both Google and Apple understood this, and both understand the strategy the latter have taken.

That, at least is my take.

Log-in to comment