When Google attacks patents

  • Posted: 12 August 2011 02:17 PM

    We have probably all read quite a bit about about Google’s hypocritical stance regarding patents. However I thought that the following article was one of the best reasoned deconstruction of Google’s position yet. Some excerpts, below.

    Google Asserts That Property Rights Are Anti-Competitive

    Written by Scott Cleland

    Behind Google?s feigned indignation is an old legal adage: when the law is not on your side you argue the facts, when the facts are not on your side you argue the law, but when neither the law nor facts are on your side ? you pound the table. Take note: Google is loudly pounding the table.

    Effectively, Google is implying that vast numbers of existing patents approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are bogus and thus anti-competitive. Even more bizarrely, Google is effectively arguing that the constitutional right of inventors to patent and own inventions via the due process of the USPTO somehow turns anti-competitive if and when patent owners choose to exercise their legal rights to defend their property in court against Google infringement. Google has a patently self-serving view of antitrust law.

    At core, Google is furiously throwing stones at competitors from its glass house.

    First, arguably no other Fortune 500 company has ever been more hostile to others? property rights than Google.

    Second, Google has misrepresented its open source software bona fides in its patent defense. In a recent study by VisionMobile, it found Google-Android to be ?the least open of open source mobile platforms.? This is highly problematic for Google?s stance in the Oracle patent case in particular, because it shows Google misrepresenting itself as an open source software purist when the facts show the opposite.

         
  • Posted: 12 August 2011 03:14 PM #1

    And a reminder for anyone that doubts Google copied iPhone: Apple showed iPhone at the beginning of 2007, and at the end of 2007 the first Android phone was seen in the wild.

    See the similarity? There is none. It’s a totally different device with tiny screen and forty or more plastic buttons. But today’s Android phones are all a deep copy of the iPhone concept.

    Android defenders claim that Apple copies Android, citing one small feature after another. But this is simply the two button mouse all over again. A mouse with two buttons confuses ordinary folk (including both my highly educated sisters), even today after 15 years of MS Windows. Apple figured this out in 1983, and Mac still doesn’t ship with a two button mouse. But it has that functionality if people want to uncover it. It doesn’t mean Apple copied Microsoft.

    In the same way, iPhone taught ordinary folk how to use the mobile internet. Any geeky subtleties were always going to be added gradually over the years.

    Up to now, Google has probably done more good than harm. But their business is based on stolen privacy and stolen Intellectual Property, and this has to be addressed.

    [ Edited: 12 August 2011 03:19 PM by sleepygeek ]      
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    Posted: 09 September 2011 12:43 AM #2

    Google gets its hands dirty

    U.S. patent No. 6,473,006, “a method and apparatus for zoomed display of characters entered from a telephone keypad,”...was originally filed, according to FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller, by a company called Phone-com, which assigned it to Openwave, which sold it to Purple Labs, which sold it to Myriad, which sold it to Google, which sold it to HTC last week for a price Google has declined to disclose.

    The iPhone, HTC claims, has violated this patent that came to HTC by way of Google, Myriad, Purple Labs, Openwave and Phone-com.

    http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/09/08/google-gets-its-hands-dirty/

    HTC, of course, is suing Apple because it was sued last year by Apple…Apple claimed at the time that HTC had violated 20 of its patents.

    Tit for tat, right? Not quite.

    The difference is that Apple actually invented the technology it accused HTC—and by proxy, Google—of “stealing” (to use Steve Jobs’ verb). One of the patents Apple cited in its 2010 suit—Patent No. No. 7479949—is a 358-page document signed by Jobs himself that covers everything from the way a finger touches the screen of a smartphone to the heuristics that turn those touches into commands.

         
  • Posted: 09 September 2011 01:03 AM #3

    “Android?s success has yielded something else,” states Drummond, “a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.”

    Presumably, the patents that Google bought from Motorola and the patents that Google sold to HTC and the patents that Google uses to protect their proprietary search engine are not of the “bogus” variety that Apple is using.

         
  • Posted: 09 September 2011 12:03 PM #4

    sleepygeek - 12 August 2011 06:14 PM

    Android defenders claim that Apple copies Android, citing one small feature after another. But this is simply the two button mouse all over again. A mouse with two buttons confuses ordinary folk (including both my highly educated sisters), even today after 15 years of MS Windows. Apple figured this out in 1983, and Mac still doesn’t ship with a two button mouse. But it has that functionality if people want to uncover it. It doesn’t mean Apple copied Microsoft.

    In the same way, iPhone taught ordinary folk how to use the mobile internet. Any geeky subtleties were always going to be added gradually over the years.

    Up to now, Google has probably done more good than harm. But their business is based on stolen privacy and stolen Intellectual Property, and this has to be addressed.

    A few things

    1) There is nothing confusing about a two button mouse. I have used mice with 4 or 5 buttons for a while now actually because I like having more options at my fingertips. But if people that I work with are more than capable of using a two button mouse despite not seeing a computer until they were 50, then no a multiple button mouse is not confusing.

    2) I was unaware that opening a browser and typing in a web address was so different on a phone. But even if you expand that to be “how to use mobile networks and technology” I still think that’s an incorrect statement. iOS did not “teach” people how to do something, it just does it all for them in the background. It’s very useful and convenient but it is not “teaching”. What this means is when you show someone who only ever used iOS a fully rooted and customized android phone, they will be quite helpless as to how to use all the programs and features on it. There is a tradeoff between the two - iOS is very upfront with what it has and how to use it. I think the time it takes to go from thought to action (unlock phone, find what you need to press or do to start program and execution) is lower on iOS than android of WP7. However, android has much more potential than iOS due to its openness.

    3) Up till now, iOS (and the iphone in general) was becoming stagnant because it had no real competition. But with the introduction of android as a serious threat, apple has been forced to keep upping its game or die out like its competitors. This in turn forces android to keep up or become a victim of its own success as the battlefield changes.

         
  • Posted: 09 September 2011 01:20 PM #5

    incarnadyne - 09 September 2011 03:03 PM

    [...]
    3) Up till now, iOS (and the iphone in general) was becoming stagnant because it had no real competition. But with the introduction of android as a serious threat, apple has been forced to keep upping its game or die out like its competitors. This in turn forces android to keep up or become a victim of its own success as the battlefield changes.

    Welcome to AFB.

    Your 3rd point is unique in my experience.  It is the 1st time I have seen it asserted that Apple only innovates when forced to by a competitor.  This is a very fresh way of looking at things, and I must give it some thought.

         
  • Posted: 09 September 2011 01:41 PM #6

    Well it’s not so much they would sit on an identical product for all eternity but if you look at their product lineups, they improve their products gradually until their competition begins to get a foothold. The iPod line for example was relatively safe and very similar for the first few years until competitors caught on. Cowon, Sony, archos, and others came onto the scene with video players and unique form factors different than the iPod. What happened? We got the iPod video, the iPod nano, the iPod shuffle, and various memory sizes and colors for all in a relatively short amount of time (~2 years?).

    Now look at the iphone. Visually speaking there is very little difference from the original to the 3Gs. The phone itself got marginally better with very few major changes (a testament to the original being well designed upon release though). The iphone 4 had to compete head to head against a slew of android phones though. So the design changed, the specs got an impressive bump, and the OS received a nice crop of changes.

         
  • Posted: 09 September 2011 01:46 PM #7

    Welcome to AFB, incarnadyne. I don’t disagree with some of what you say, but IMO you are wrong to take your observations at face value. Instead of focussing on whether one manufactured gadget is better than another, focus on the businesses that are Apple and Google, and their decades of product evolution past and future.

    I am reminded of a story:

    An eager player challenges a master to a game of Go. He plays well, and each skirmish is close. When there are no more moves, he is keen to count up the territory to see if he might have won, but the master says: it is not necessary; you have lost by one point.

    The point is, in a contest that appeared evenly matched throughout, the challenger was finally shown he had been an unwitting puppet at every move. In my opinion, Apple’s competitors have no idea how strong Apple is. Google is beginning a painful lesson, even though they are Apple’s strongest challenger.

    (I haven’t played Go for 30 years!)

         
  • Posted: 09 September 2011 01:47 PM #8

    capablanca - 09 September 2011 04:20 PM
    incarnadyne - 09 September 2011 03:03 PM

    [...]
    3) Up till now, iOS (and the iphone in general) was becoming stagnant because it had no real competition. But with the introduction of android as a serious threat, apple has been forced to keep upping its game or die out like its competitors. This in turn forces android to keep up or become a victim of its own success as the battlefield changes.

    Welcome to AFB.

    Your 3rd point is unique in my experience.  It is the 1st time I have seen it asserted that Apple only innovates when forced to by a competitor.  This is a very fresh way of looking at things, and I must give it some thought.

    I agree, but I have heard this before. This is straight from Paul Thurrot’s line of thinking.

         
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    Posted: 09 September 2011 01:51 PM #9

    incarnadyne - 09 September 2011 03:03 PM

    . . .
    3) Up till now, iOS (and the iphone in general) was becoming stagnant because it had no real competition. . . .

    Would like to see your proof of this statement.

    Apple works by iteration and not by some loose change-bag toss of hoopla that comes, that goes, that may be hit, more often miss.

    And an iteration may not look earth shaking, but over time iteration is Apple genius that is astounding and says, “there is a plan to all this”.

    The Android way? It’s called a crap shoot.
    ———-
    Here is my support.

    Only after Apple produced the iPod touch did MicroSoft begin to work on a touch-screen HD equivalent. It had essentially killed off its original Zune two years after its introduction in the fall of 2006, deciding not to make any major updates. Sales had slumped and its market share had fallen to around 2%. Apple had no need to continue any grand new design but did so with the Touch, in the fall of 2008. It didn?t seem to need the wolves snapping at its feet to do so.

    There was nothing in the original Zune that would have worried Apple and even had there been, when you are so far ahead of the competition as Apple was, you don?t thoughtlessly have to jump in to address their inspiration. You stick to your adaptive plan of iteration and make the grand change when all your card are in order. Microsoft had a renewed sense of urgency and gave one last try after seeing the Touch, so began work on their Touch inspired HD Zune. Todate, it claims it is not dead.

    The crap shoot counts on luck.

    Planning and iteration is what it is and the iPod family history says it all.

    [ Edited: 09 September 2011 02:40 PM by mhikl ]

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    Posted: 09 September 2011 02:40 PM #10

    The question of whether Apple (or any company) is motivated by competition is moot. There is always competition, either already in the market or about to enter it. Theorizing that Apple would have made worse iPhones without competition is senseless. They’ve always had competition.

    The iPhone entered an existing smartphone market dominated by Nokia, RIM & Palm. Those companies were unable to react to Apple’s innovation quickly enough and are suffering the consequences.

    *Please skip the semantic arguments over the word “innovation”.

    Apple has constantly improved the iPhone in ways that are most important to the average consumer. They don’t react to what competitors do in the market, they are proactive in giving consumers the best, most important features and capabilities. “Most important” to consumers, not tech pundits or the geekery.

    Consider the most commonly touted features of the top Android phones: larger screen, dual-core processor with more GHz and RAM, cameras with more pixels, “4G” data, NFC, etc. Apple does not respond to any of those “improvements”. A dual-core processor is simply the regular evolution of mobile processors and they never bother to tout the GHz speed spec.

    What does Apple focus on? iCloud, iMessage, Newsstand, Reminders, Photo Stream, AirPlay mirroring. Go back and watch the iOS 5 Keynote. They spend very little time talking about specs. They spend lots of time giving real-life examples of how people can use these new features.

    Apple does not react to the competition, but the competition would be wise to react to Apple.

         
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    Posted: 09 September 2011 02:56 PM #11

    Drew Bear - 09 September 2011 05:40 PM

    Apple does not react to the competition, but the competition would be wise to react to Apple.

    Exactly, Drew Bear. This sums up what I tried to say in my addendum to support my points. It is like coming out with a life plan knowing where you will be while the competition is always scrambling to where you are only to find you have moved further ahead. They are so distracted by your presence they can’t forecast a future beyond your shadow.

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  • Posted: 09 September 2011 03:37 PM #12

    Biggest example is that even after many analysts insisted SJ and Tim to enter the netbook market. Apple mgmt did not follow the herd and let the netbook market runaway (it was a huge success story at the time for Asus and Acer). Later in 2010, iPad was announced and rest is history.

    Did Apple chase the competition?
    Now is Google chasing Apple ?

    Answers are obvious.

         
  • Posted: 09 September 2011 03:50 PM #13

    Google’s catalog of hypocrisy, mendacity, infringement of others’ intellectual property rights, self-interested suppression of competition, and misuse and violation of open source exceeds not only the bounds of what the law permits but also the bounds of morality.  See http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2011/08/12/google-asserts-that-property-rights-are-anti-competitive/ and http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2011/08/study-android-is-least-open-of-open-source-mobile-platforms.ars.

    I’ve wondered for a while now why the certain leaders of the open-source community have not only failed to take appropriate action against Google—when its violation of open-source licensing and principles is patent, measurable, and notorious—but have even defended it.  I think that it is time for uncorrupted members of the open-source community to find and follow the money, for it may lead directly to some of their own.  Of course, money isn’t the only inducement of Google’s seduction:  Pride could also be at work.

    Don’t be evil.  What else would you expect the Devil’s spawn to say?

         
  • Posted: 09 September 2011 04:24 PM #14

    @incarnadyne, welcome to the AFB. Your take is unique here and will be challenged quite often. But if you can stand the heat, your perspective is quite welcome. I think you’ll find that the participants here are more interested in discovering the truth than in justifying their own opinions.

    Now to the substance of your comments.

    incarnadyne - 09 September 2011 03:03 PM

    There is nothing confusing about a two button mouse.

    I agree. I thought this was a terrible example. The two-button mouse, in my opinion is superior to the one button mouse. Of course, the question is now becoming moot as more and more people are using trackpads and touch sensitive devices.

    incarnadyne - 09 September 2011 03:03 PM

    Up till now, iOS (and the iphone in general) was becoming stagnant because it had no real competition. But with the introduction of android as a serious threat, apple has been forced to keep upping its game or die out like its competitors.

    I vehemently disagree with this. First I would dispute the characterization of the iPhones’ interface as “stagnant”. But let’s put that aside for now.

    Apple never seems to need competition in order to compel it to change. They leap and then they iterate. They leap and then they iterate.

    An example of a company that stagnates without competition is Microsoft. There are probably a hundred examples, but Windows Explorer comes readily to mind. When Explorer had no competition, Microsoft simply sat on it. It was only after FireFox et. al. started to make inroads into their market share that Microsoft seemed to wake up and take notice.

    Now mind you, even though I don’t think Apple needs competition in order to innovate (they are internally motivated) I DO think that Apple needs competition for a totally separate reason. The same sort of self-assuredness that allows Apple to create products that everyone else says will fail also causes them to have blind spots. The mouse discussed earlier is one example among many. The same fanaticism that reduces the iPod to a single click-wheel and the iPhone to a single button becomes stubbornness when dealing with a slew of other issues where Apple is seeming oblivious. It is my opinion that competition, rather than acting as the driving force to Apple’s innovation, more acts as guard rails. When Apple veers off the road, competition forces them to return to the more traditional path. It may seem like a minor distinction to you, but to me it has major implications.

         
  • Posted: 09 September 2011 05:51 PM #15

    Great discussion everyone. Very informative.

    I just had one thing to say about the one button mouse. I’ve always felt the decision to keep the one button mouse is more of a design statement of simplicity than any effort to actually BE simple. I’m sure we all agree that more buttons are generally better, but to reinforce the simplicity (or perceived or advertised simplicity) of the Mac, the mouse must remain simple, since it is generally the first physical connection a user has with the computer. I’m impressed that that design discipline has lasted as long as it has. It takes guts and the attitude (some may say arrogance) to say that “no, I know why we do this, and I know it’s right.” I think the one button mouse has always been a simple symbol of Apple’s confidence in design. (ignoring the hockey puck iMac one of course).

    Back to patents, does anyone think the judges in these cases take into account the purchasing of patents versus those actually created by the owner? Purchasing a patent and then using it in a lawsuit the next week seems all sorts of levels of shady.

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    Less is More (more or less).