UPDATE: Microsoft to Google: Bring it on

August 4, 2011

Everyone loves a good catfight, and it appears two of technology’s biggest names this week might just have obliged.

Google –stung by its failure to get in on several thousand Nortel patents scooped up by its biggest rivals in the smartphone industry – cast the first stone by accusing Apple, Microsoft, Oracle – and presumably almost everyone else — of ganging up against Android and using “bogus patents” to reign in the runaway success of the mobile operating system it gives away for free.

In a very long, very public rant on its official blog, top lawyer David Drummond in particular called out Microsoft, which is also a rival in its search business, of trying to hurt Google by forging an unholy alliance with historical arch-foe Apple.

Microsoft and Apple had teamed up to acquire patents previously owned by software maker Novell and bankrupt telecom firm Nortel Networks Corp. to ensure “Google didn’t get them,” Drummond said.

Apple – in typical fashion — maintained a stony silence, but the Redmond -based technology giant was having none of it.

“Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no,” Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel tweeted in response a few hours later.

But the real zinger came from Microsoft’s PR chief Frank Shaw. He tweeted “Free advice for David Drummond — next time check with Kent Walker before you blog. “

Shaw even tacked on a smiley face at the end of his tweet. More to the point, also on the tweet was an image of an e-mail conversation between Smith and Kent Walker, Senior vice president and general counsel at Google. It read:

“Brad —

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you – I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we’re open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.

I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

— Kent”


Not to be outdone, Drummond updated his original blog post on Thursday, saying  Microsoft wants to “divert attention by pushing a false gotcha!” He then argued that a joint bid with Microsoft would have stripped Android of any protection these patents could offer against attacks from Microsoft and other bidding partners.

“Making sure that we would be unable to assert these patents to defend Android — and having us pay for the privilege — must have seemed like an ingenious strategy to them,” Drummond wrote. “We didn’t fall for it.”

And sure enough, Microsoft responded. Immediately.

Shaw took to Twitter again, saying:  “Hello again David Drummond. This is going to take a few tweets, so here we go. Let’s look at what Google does not dispute in their reply. ”

Google didn’t dispute that Microsoft offered it a chance to join the bid but decided against teaming up “BECAUSE they wanted to buy something that they could use to assert against someone else,” he tweeted.

“SO partnering with others & reducing patent liability across industry is not something they wanted to help do,” Shaw said in his third rapid-fire tweet.

Back to you Google!

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