Slashdot reports today that Google has come up with a really smart way of avoiding all of these pesky and irritating patent fights it is in right now.
Referencing an article on All Things D, Google GC Kent Walker comments:
“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. “
Ahem!! Read that back again and ask why that suggestion doesn’t drive a very large coach and a herd of horses (it is a herd of horses isn’t it?) through the entire patent system.
It is often said that in any patent portfolio, there will be around 5% that have real commercial value (why this makes sense to follow in later posts), and, with Mr Walker’s suggestion, of this 5% of heavy investment, it is fair that those that get really popular are deemed to be de facto Standard essential when consumers decide they really like them. You’d have to be quite desperate for that to be part of a serious set of arguments, don’t you think?
After the abuse of the Standards system (well maybe manipulation is a better word) by the 2 and 3G member-only clubs, is it fair then for one of those that has paid out most in the Smartphone wars in club membership fees to have to deem its most valuable patents as available on FRAND terms to another company who has far from played by the rules? Would it also be fair to make MSFT play by the same rules after 13 years of IP investment has put it into the position of being able to offer a total indemnity to its users and to exercise a significant strategic and competitive advantage?
Whoever may be listening to Kent Walker, don’t. He is GC of a company which has been less than honest with Android OS licensees. Suffer little Google for a bad set of consciously-taken IP decisions, in particular (a) to indemnify or not, you chose not (b) to buy Nortel or not, you chose a quirky not (c) to buy MMI without too much investigation of whether its patents were already out-licensed and on what terms.
Nice search engine, lots of revenues, wrong IP strategy, desperate submission.