Addressing the attendees of the Technology Policy Institute's conference today in Mountain View, Calif., Google public policy director Pablo Chavez made it plain that as a company, Google is fed up with software patents, patent wars, and the way they affect the consumer. During the question and answer period, Chavez said,
We think that these patent wars are not helpful to consumers. They're not helpful to the marketplace. They're not helpful to innovation.
It's not the first time Google has spoken out against software patents. During the infamous Oracle v. Google trial, Google lawyer Kent Walker said that they are "gumming up the works of innovation," and in a joint petition to the U.S. Supreme court with Metlife, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and others, Google said "The recent surge in patents on abstract ideas such as how to run a business or software that merely implements such methods has not promoted innovation in the financial services or information technology fields -- to the contrary, such patents create a drag on innovation."
It's plain to see that Google believes using patents and courtrooms to halt innovation or ban products as a bad idea. I couldn't agree more. Software patents are bad for business, bad for consumers, and bad for the industry as a whole. The small gains by winners of these suits is outweighed by the harm done, as small folks with big ideas can no longer implement them out of fear of litigation. If a company like Samsung or HTC can't stay out of court every time they move too much product, what chance do independent developers have?
This is the Google I like seeing. The one who stands up to the silly notion that ideas are property, and instead places value on the methods used to achieve those ideas. The Google who knows that hurting the consumer is never the best choice. Not the Google who joins in the fray, then condemns the behavior three days later. Google is likely to find little sympathy after using Motorola's patents to go after Apple, then publicly saying they think companies doing such is a bad idea. Motorola may be doing business as a separate company, but Google, as the common owner, is ultimately responsible, and Motorola should share the same patent philosophy.
We wish them the best in their campaign to reform the patent system in the U.S., as well as the abuse of it that some companies see as standard operating procedure.