Google’s Patent Plea for Permission to Pilfer

| The Back Page

Google made a plea to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, a plea for permission to pilfer the patent portfolios of any company good enough to change the world. I was flabbergasted at the audacity, but when you get down to it, it’s in keeping with Google’s perpetual attitude that the world should be its oyster to do with as it pleases.

I call baloney! Here, let me illustrate that:

Google Baloney

Dear Senate…

First, let’s look at the recent news. Google General Counsel Kent Walker sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee arguing that proprietary technologies good enough to set the bar should be treated the same as standards-essential patents that go into creating interoperability standards.

From Mr. Walker’s letter, which was published by AllThingsD:

While collaborative [Standards Setting Organizations (SSOs)] play an important part in the overall standard setting system, and are particularly prominent in industries such as telecommunications, they are not the only source of standards. Indeed, many of the same interoperability benefits that the FTC and others have touted in the SSO context also occur when one firm publishes information about an otherwise proprietary standard and other firms then independently decide (whether by choice or of necessity) to make complementary investments to support that standard in their products. … Because proprietary or de facto standards can have just as important effects on consumer welfare, the Committee’s concern regarding the abuse of SEPs should encompass them as well.

In other words, Google is arguing that when a company invents something so good that the rest of the world has a hard time competing, those competitors should instead be free to copy that technology, perhaps with a tiny FRAND royalty in compensation.

Now, I wonder if that goes for Google’s own PageRank algorithm. That’s the formula that Google uses to rank webpages (the name is a play on CEO Larry Page’s last name and webpage). It’s the PageRank algorithm that thoroughly disrupted the online search industry and allowed Google to grab almost all of the online search search business in most of the world.

By Google’s own reasoning, the company should be forced to let competing search engines use PageRank to retool their own search engines to be more competitive. I have a feeling, though, that Google’s argument is only intended to apply to other companies’ “proprietary standards.”

But Wait, There’s More

Another sign of the company’s hypocrisy is the way its executives have decried the rise of closed platforms like Facebook. With Facebook, user information is hidden from search engines like Google, and that freaks Google out.

The company’s business is based on slurping up huge amounts of information, particularly information relating to we, the people. It slices, dices, and juliennes that information up to the point that Google chairman Eric Schmidt once bragged, “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”

That’s great for Google and its shareholders, but guess what: I don’t want Google or any other company to know what I’m thinking, especially when they’re going to sell that information to the highest bidder and profit off of me.

Facebook and other Web-based platforms threaten those profits because they shut Google out. Of course, they’re doing the same thing Google is doing—slicing and dicing our information and selling it to the highest bidder—but Google chief Internet evangelist Vent Cerf warned the world that Facebook is going to become a walled garden and that this will somehow be bad.

Which is true, for Google. It will be bad. Google wants everything on the Internet to be free and open to it so that the company can profit from it.

Me? I don’t trust Facebook all that much at all, but I sure don’t see any benefit in allowing Google to pilfer my Facebook profile so the company can make a buck. Don’t worry, though. Eric Schmidt promised us that, “We are willing to get i[that Facebook data] one way or another, with or without deal.”

That’s good to know.

Apple’s Response

So back to this patent thing. Google makes the case that Apple—and make no mistake, because this letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee is aimed squarely and solely at Apple—has invented some great things, and that these things should be made available to its competitors.

Again, this would be great for Google, because Google wouldn’t have to invent stuff. It could just pilfer Apple’s portfolio in the name of interoperability.

But I call balderdash, and so did Apple. The iPhone maker sent its own letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying:

The capabilities of an iPhone are categorically different from a conventional phone, and result from Apple’s ability to bring its traditional innovation in computing to the mobile market. Using an iPhone to take photos, manage a home-finance spreadsheet, play video games, or run countless other applications has nothing to do with standardized protocols. Apple spent billions in research and development to create the iPhone, and third party software developers have spent billions more to develop applications that run on it. The price of an iPhone reflects the value of these nonstandardized technologies — as well as the value of the aesthetic design of the iPhone, which also reflects immense study and development by Apple, and which is entirely unrelated to standards.

All of which is true. As AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski noted, “There’s a big difference between technology that became popular because it was adopted as an industry standard and technology that became popular because consumers fell in love with it. In the case of the smartphone patent wars, the first makes a cellphone a cellphone and the second makes it an iPhone. One is a core technology, the other is experiential, product differentiation.”

Apple & Oranges

Another problem with Google’s self-serving assertion is the nature of its comparison. Standards-essential patents are submitted by the patent holder to standards bodies in hopes of getting their technology included in a proposed standard. If that happens, the patent holder will be assured of steady patent royalties for as long as that standard remains relevant. They might also make money by providing hardware related to their patent to companies making devices that use the standard.

This is a great business for companies like Samsung, Nokia, and Motorola who have been researching cellphone technology—especially wireless technology—for decades. They stand to make far more money by having their patented technology adopted as a standard in the name of interoperability than they would otherwise.

Companies like Apple aren’t in that business, though. Apple is looking to build cell phones that are interoperable with existing wireless networks, but that offer a differentiated user experience. They spend money on R&D to develop new ways for their users to do things, not to find new ways that other companies can make devices.

If Apple’s competitors are allowed to copy what Apple invents, Apple’s competitive edge will be erased and Apple’s incentive to innovate will disappear. If that happened, who would Google and its Android OEMs copy then? Microsoft’s Windows Phone? Nokia’s dead Symbian?

The truth is that Google doesn’t want to have to compete with Apple on innovation. As noted above, Google’s business is slicing and dicing our personal information and habits and selling the results to the highest bidder. As long as the company can get that information, Google’s letter suggests it doesn’t really care about the innovation side of the equation.

Maybe that’s because innovating and inventing is rough and messy. Things would be much simpler for the company if it could just ride Apple’s coattails.

In my opinion, that’s just evil.

Image made with help from Shutterstock.

Popular TMO Stories



Nailed it. What I find interesting is people who get upset when Apple defends it’s patents and claim that is anti-competitive and BAD for consumers. Truth is, competition breeds new innovation. There is no competition if everyone is doing the same thing or copies someone else’s idea. What? Can’t copy Apples swipe to unlock patent or rubber band bounce?  Make something better! Or do without, certainly the world survived without either before. That is what competition does, it nurtures differences which offer true choice, and that is good for customers. Judge Posner doesn’t get that either.

google is a stupid company

Google is either a stupid company of a company pretending to be stupid hiding behind the “don’t be evil” bullshit. Either way, is a demagogic and hypocrit company.

Google bought Motorola, third class company going down, for twice the price, just to put their hands on a bunch of patents. Google has all its algorithms and other intellectual properties protected by patents but never respects other peoples intellectual properties (see books ripping, java ripping, iOS ripping, etc.) and is always whining that other companies are bullying them and preventing them to get their candies.

All this is happening on Larry Page’s watch.

Google is a company that always wanted to be Apple but is transforming themselves on the new Microsoft. In fact, worst than Microsoft on their evilest days.

Lee Dronick

Bologna!  They sure are full it! Chutzpa too.


I have felt that “BS” about Google for a long time. Thanks for putting in word one aspect of this company’s evil ways. My next move in a few months will sever whatever I can of GoogleBS from my online activity.

Bryan Chaffin

Skipaq, I almost added something about how as annoyed as I am with this hypocrisy, that the reality is that many of the company’s services are best-in-class.

Google Search, for instance, is hands down the best search out there. I’m not ditching Google, I’m just annoyed with the company’s blatant self-serving message poorly cloaked in a layer of piety.

Lee Dronick

I have switched to Bing as my primary search engine, but still prefer Google Maps.

Does anyone else occasionally get a Google cookie when you log in to a site with 3rd party and advertisers cookies’ blocked?


We steal your data
We steal your IP
We steal your identity
We Steal- It’s Our DNA


that?s just evil

I followed this link in the article. Guess What? “Evil” is used only once in Google’s policy statement. When you read the item that includes the word, it talks only about choosing search results to display and putting ads on result pages or making the ads relevant and not about stealing your personal information or then selling it to whomever will buy it. There is no mention of anything other than their search and the ads they display (to you).

It seems to me that evil is only related to this aspect of their business. Apparently, it is not evil to gather your personal information (what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every person you spoke with and where you were when you did, how long you stayed there and when you came and left; for every day of your life - 24/7.) then target you in the sights of every company on Earth to offer you (read: sell you) anything that might convince you to buy or change your buying from what you do now to what would be profitable for (not you but) them (the companies selling to you and Google). They don’t say they will not keep you in their data base and sell your habit patterns to individuals (NOT companies) who may have other (not merchandising) motives.


They’re just following in Steve Jobs’ foot steps… God, you’d think they were emulating Bill Gates by all of your posts…

Steve Jobs shamelessly stole.



Google Search, for instance, is hands down the best search out there. I?m not ditching Google, I?m just annoyed with the company?s blatant self-serving message poorly cloaked in a layer of piety.

Agreed. There’s no way to ditch Google because, online, they’re just too good and absolutely rule the search space. When I search engine optimize a site, I optimize for Google, because—let’s face it—most people looking for something on the web look for it on Google. We “Google” things, we don’t “Bing” them. Unless, of course, you’re about to give birth and have your baby delivered by Monty Python. smile


Google shamelessly trying to see what it can get away with via the Senate Judiciary Committee reminds of a Woody Allen film. Woody is trying to meet & ingratiate himself with a woman using suggested language that he doubts will work. When it does, he says “She BOUGHT it!”

If we had real privacy laws, Google wouldn’t be allowed to collect, much less sell our habits and data to anyone. We should tell that to the Senate Judiciary Committee and committee-member Senator Dianne Feinstein, who’s running for re-election and should know what Californians think about privacy: DiFi, don’t BUY Google’s silly & evil ideas.


Google just admitted how it just wants to slavishly copy everything Apple without spending a dime on R&D. And everyone else by the way. Let Apple do this or the other guy? Really?
Is that how business is run in the United States? Did I miss something here?
Samsung is another slavish copier that thinks everything should be handed to them on a silver platter. Probably got it from Google no doubt.


Great comments Bryan, you nailed it. I just had sign up to express my agreement. Google’s position is just outrageous and I hope the people in Congress can see thru the BS.


Love the bologna and the alliteration. smile

It’s true. Ordinarily I’d jump to my country’s defense, but when it comes to our privacy laws we suck compared to the rest of the free world. How Google has gotten away with this horse shit for so long is just beyond me. Would somebody somewhere in our legal system or judicial branch (or, or, or) please have the cajones to put them in their place? Pretty please? They need to be audited, investigated, and spanked until they can’t sit down, or at least until they’re willing to play fair. If Google were a person they’d be a sociopath with psychotic tendencies. No, wait. That’s Eric Schmidt, and he is a person. raspberry

Who knew one day that Microsoft would be taking a risk on something different and quite possibly cool (well . . . cool for Microsoft, anyway) and Google would be the evil empire? Zounds.


I almost hate to say it, especially because I’m not a big fan of Ayn Rand, but this is Atlas Shrugged in real life. And then we have somebody in the comments begging for _more_ of that! Go figure!

Where did that guy go anyway???



I still can’t believe that Schmidt shamelessly sat on apple’s board of director’s while Apple developed the iPhone and only stepped down (was fired) when it became clear to Apple that Google was working on copying iOS using pilfered languages so that they could also get into the phone business. Why has so little been made of this? A full journalistic piece on this would be a very interesting and revealing story.

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account