Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Google's Position on Software Patents?

I have been a fan of the Google search engine for years. It has helped level the playing field for small businesses. Patent Planet would be "invisible" on the Web, but for PageRank. I don't pay for Google advertising yet clients continue to find me searching on Google.

Google search engine is also a phenomenal tool for finding obscure information. If I need to review a point of law (e.g., how should a terminal disclaimer be processed on a jointly owned application, and will it raise a standing issue later?), it is better to search on Google than inside a massive document such as the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP). Let Google take me to the right page out of several thousand pages.

Or around the house, if something goes wrong with an appliance (e.g., the Subzero refrigerator is blinking, but appears to be at the right temperatures), should I call a repairman today or can it wait? If a DVD gets stuck in the MacBook Pro, should I grab it with tweezers and/or shake the computer. Google search results tells me neither. You should reboot while holding down eject button and if necessary use a credit card to depress the DVD. Or if an iPhone gets wet when I jump in the pool to pull a kid out of danger, is it salvageable? Google search indicates skip blow drying it, and head to the AT&T retailer for an upgrade. In many situations, Google has saved time and money.

Further, Google has generated tremendous wealth for shareholders, and given us YouTube, Google scholar, and Google docs, etc.

What's less certain is Google's patent strategy.

Google's strategy has changed radically since 1998. This month Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility sued Apple for infringement of seven US patents in the ITC. Earlier this year Google loaned/transferred US patents to Android partner HTC to sue Apple. Google has filed for thousands of software patents. Google's SEC papers indicate it paid $5.5 billion for thousands of computer related patents and technology when it paid $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility. It appears Google is engaging in mutually assured destruction with respect to Apple.

At the same time Google appears to stockpile and assert patents, it makes statements that they are suspect in the press: (1) Google's GC Kent Walker tells us that software patents don't help innovation in Software patents 'gumming up innovation'; and (2) Google's public policy Director Pablo Chavez suggests software patents are problematic: Google: Time to ditch our current software patent system?

Copyright © 2012 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.