Google: Software patents 'not helpful to the marketplace'

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.

Via: CNet

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • It's a double-edged sword. Not having a patent system would allow others to free-ride innovative companies. Not to mention the fact large companies can steal your ideas or work and implement them at a much lower cost. The patent system needs delicate balancing or else you risk favoring one side much more than the other.
  • Oh look, Apple is trying to ban the Galaxy Nexus. AGAIN. And you expect Google/Motorola/Samsing/HTC/The Whole Frickin' World to turn the other cheek? Apple WILL NOT STOP until they're MADE TO STOP. Google MUST defend itself and its Android partners against this psychopathic onslaught.
  • I personally LOVE the Google "who joins in the fray" as long as they continue to do what they're doing right now. I want to see Google drop a Wylie Coyote style anvil on Apple and everyone else who tries to use patents to stop innovation. If "they", whoever they are, want to keep the patent system, then I want to see Google do everything possible to destroy them. If Google were out there suing other search engines for being search engines, then I would agree with you completely, but they're not. Before anybody starts whining about Google suing Bing, that suit was specifically about Bing using end-user computers to scrape Google search results. Google did not object to Bing competing with them, only to Bing stealing Google search results. The patent wars are asinine. If common sense won't convince people, then hopefully Google can show them just how destructive a big company with deep pockets and a huge patent portfolio can be.
  • I'm getting to the point where this war may very well be what's best. Mutual destruction. Or peace. Either way, something good should result. Maybe patent reform. Maybe very one starts to talk about some sort of license agreement.
  • I agree. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
  • Well said Jerry. Google is right on. I really hope we will see reform and oversight to the USPTO, in regard to sofware concept patents. Many, like myself, believe that Apple bamboozled the USPTO with craftily worded concept patents with the specific intent to wage this battle in court. I believe that Apple could really care less about the outcome, it is just a tool to stifle the competition in court. Evidence of this is the targeted nature of their attack against today's biggest competition; aka. Samsung. These attacks are for design and software elements (without a specific framework of how to execute the software function) that really should be imposed against all of Apple's competition (Microsoft, Google, HTC, LG, Motorola, etc..) if, and only IF, the claim was truly valid. In other words, the targeted nature of Apple's patent attacks proves that they are into legal-sleeze with the clear intent of only getting an injunction against their biggest competitor's products, defaming the competitor's product(s) + reputation, and stifling innovation by forcing the competition to spend great sums of money to defend themselves. Sadly, this is a bullying tactic that is completely legal today. I keep calling out to people to stand up against the insult of Apple. Apple is asserting that customers can neither read, nor can they recognize the logo of an Apple.
    Yes, that IS what Apple is saying.
    Never once has Samsung put a device out on the market with the Apple logo on it. Never once has Samsung put a device out on the market with the word "Apple" on it. Until that happens, Samsung is free and clear to push non-iOS devices forward (and Rene Richie can stuff a sock in it). Never once has a normal person looked at a device with Android OS and the word SAMSUNG on the touchscreen and said "Hey look, an iPhone!".
    Personally I own an iPad2, a Nexus 7, and rock a SGS2 (i777) as my daily driver. I own a Macbook Pro, a couple Windows 7 laptops, and an array of Linux distros. I have never been confused as to what product was made by Apple.
  • If Google believes these patent wars are so harmful then i think they should just patent the hell out of everything they can. That way when someone else "infringes" on that patent Google can just give them a high five and say "way to go" instead of suing them like any other patent owner would. It would be a great way to move things forward.
  • I think that software patents on things like specific code or implementation thereof should he allowed to be patented. Not "using you finger on stuff" or "haz keybordz"
  • Sometimes the only way to stop a school yard bully is for the someone in his same weight class to punch him directly in the face, not to coach the smaller kids who are getting their lunch money stolen each day. Apple's the school yard bully in this situation, and they're not going to stop until they get stomped big. Apple's got their big fat war chest full of cash (which ought to be paid out in dividends) and their Jihad-like hatred of Android to spend it on. Like any other crazy zealots, they're not going to listen to reason. Google's not hypocritical, they're doing something they find distasteful, but that needs to be done anyways for the greater good. I'm not an Apple hater, this is being typed out on a MacBook Pro, but the once fresh Apple is turning brown and rotten in many ways, in my opinion.
  • This looks like a classic case of one part of a company not talking to another. Their public policy side may deride software patents, but their legal/R&D/Production side hasn't gotten the memo. Oh, and I keep seeing this idea popping up that Google does not control Motorola. While their business may be separate, Google has controlled all of Motorola's litigation since the buyout was announced. Motorola could not have taken the action against Apple without the explicit Approval of Google. (and, considering how buyouts like this work, Google's legal team IS Motorola's now)
  • All this is why we need tort reform. Stop the frivolous lawsuits with excessive penalties and watch litigation drop like a rock. This way, innovation and true competition can blossom.
  • Hopefully the Moto patents have enough weight to convince Apple to agree to a cross license deal with Google and it's partners. Though, they scoff at Samsung's patents of actual technology that they invented and were generous to offer up to the world as standards. From what I have read so far, the Moto patents is this case are NOT FRAND and are not software. The potential outcome of the Apple vs Samsung case has me sick to my stomach. Imagine a world where our only choice for a smartphone is either a Windows Phone or an iPhone.
  • Why do some Android people consistently use FUD about being 'limited to Windows Phone or iPhone' if Apple wins? You know, I know, EVERYBODY KNOWS, that that will not happen. The only thing that would happen is that Android would have to change a bit, and come up with some different ways to do things. (which they've already done with things like the overscroll glow) That's called innovation. It could actually make Android better in the long term.
  • It is one of the great examples of modern-day hypocrisy to hear Google spewing about how patents are bad for business, innovation, etc.. Google has been just as guilty as Apple of predatory practices and patenting the same types of things when it is convenient. Google also hides behind open source so that when it may be guilty of patent violations, it is the hardware manufacturers who get drug into court. I have never bought an Apple product and never will. That does not, however, change the fact that Google has been guilty of violating patent laws. It also does not change the fact that the patent system has actually worked for 100+ years. Anyone who thinks that Google has any higher calling or noble motivations or some sense of altruism needs to stop drinking Google's version of Kool-Aid. It is just as distasteful as Apple's brand. If Google's management really had the best interests of anyone other than themselves, they would charge a nominal fee for android and then provide the sort of litigation protection Microsoft provides to its hardware partners.
  • Yes Google has to play into the same software patents game as it is set forth today. The differentiation is what Google does with their patents portfolio. Aside from making fair licensing deals and proactively defending themselves by fortifying their portfolio, I do not see Google doing harm to the industry with their patents. The Patent system of old was designed and built for Mechanical, Electrical, and artistic design. With the onset of software, it became apparent that software was harder to patent. The patents cleric's doing the review/approval process has a great deal of trouble discerning prior art when it comes to software. Basically in the existing system, a software designer could only patent the exact lines of code that are used to execute a specific function. That is how the 100 year old system would treat software patents. The true shortcoming is that a simple change in expression, or change in software language, could open the door for someone else to circumvent the prior patented function yet allow the someone else to write code that performs the same function. More recent patent laws now dictate designers can request a patent on the concept of how the software functions. This dumps the decision off the courts. I hate it... Foreword: forgive me for bringing this up. Remember in the early ninties, when that douche that called himself vanilla - ice made himself famous by shamefully sampling a riff from Queen and using it as the looping music for his crappy "ice-ice-baby" track? That shithead won the legal battle because his producer added one extra note to the loop. And much against my own outrage, that waste of human flesh got to keep the money.
  • We need large companies, like those named in the blog post, to keep bitching about the stupidity, the inefficiencies of the current patent system. So, good for Google & those companies. To suggest that Motorola shouldn't play the game while the game still exists, though, that's stupid. Moto & other OEM's are forced to play the patent games because of Apple, and I forgive them for doing so until the game ends once and for all.
  • By the sounds of it, this is Google forcing Apple to open their books and show the world what they're hiding in an attempt to show how broken the patent system is. And it's not just Apple, either. It's everyone who Apple has gone after, as well as the hardware and software developers who contribute to the frameworks that make up all of these phones and interfaces that everyone uses. Maybe ideas should NOT be patented, and this is Google's way of putting Apple (and everyone else) on the spot.
  • I was kinda thinking the same thing. It seems like they "jumped into the fray" to prove a point. I guarantee, if the ban goes through, it is going to get people's attention on how stupid the concept is. Samsung gets a import ban, it is headline of the tech section...Apple gets banned will be THE headline, period...
  • YOu always say the same, but you are right, i like that google too, but just because they think like that, it means they have to let everybody fuck with them like they being doing. I find good that for once google use his power to give an example of what can happen if pattent wars keep going on. Not just stay there and let their partners and manufacturers and their software get bullied.
  • Maybe, that google is being that google (the one who asked for the ban on apple products) to try and push for reform. What better way to make a problem widely known than to push the problem out in the open. Think about it...if there is something completely valid in Moto's portfolio to warrant a ban on ALL apple products, think how quickly 'reform' would be used. How do you gedt a bully to play nice? Take his method of being a bully away. How can apple be a bully if they have no products to claim infringement on or if the patent system is reformed. Which do you think apple would prefer? TL;DR:
    Maybe google is trying to push for reform, by joining the battle and making a huge atomic bomb for the world to see how messed up the current system is.
  • Yup, we get it...Google should just roll over and give in to Apple, letting Apple sue them and their OEMs over and over again without any sort of retaliation. That's an AWESOME idea on paper. Unfortunately, in the real world, that's a recipe for simply losing. Do you really think that Apple will stop using these tactics if Google refuses to engage? It's like the kid who keeps getting bullied on the playground. If he never fights back, all the kids, even the ones who aren't bullies by nature, start to recognize him as a target. Fight back once or twice, and it evens the playing field. That's what Google has to do here. It may be distasteful, but it's the simple facts of life, and business.
  • Also...Google's actions and their statements are NOT contradictory. Even if they don't like the current rules, and want to work to change them, that doesn't mean that they don't have to play by the current rules just like everyone else until that change happens. They have to fight back.