As seen on Slashdot and other places there has been quite a lot of public discourse recently in wake of consortiums consisting of Microsoft and Apple among others buying the Novell and Nortel patents. This caused Google through its Senior Vice president, David Drummond, to call the use of these consortiums to buy patents anti-competitive. And he is absolutely correct. In the Zdnet article they point to a tweet by Microsofts Brad Smith who counters that they offered Google to bid with them. Well as I pointed out when blogging about the Novell patent sale, the problem here is that these patents are needed to deter lawsuits from Microsoft, and co-owning some patents from Microsoft doesn’t really achieve that.
Another horrid attempt at a rebuttal to Google is from John Gruber who starts by trying to equate the patent problem with Google undercutting Microsoft on price. Why even though he partially admits the US patent system is broken later on, he tries to say that Microsoft attacking Google with bogus patents is the moral equal to Google competing with Microsoft through undercutting them on price…/facepalm.
And he then tries to be clever and rhetorically ask “But what exactly does Google need to defend against, if not actual patents Android actually violates?”. Well the answer to that is that Google needs its own pool of bogus patents as it is the only way to protect yourself from other peoples bogus patents. But what John seems to forget is that two wrongs doesn’t make a right, and unless the US congress at some point decides to actually do something that helps the US economy and drop the stupidity that is software patents, then innovating companies will continue to need to waste money and time on software patents, so protect themselves form the attempts of the market incumbents to abuse the patent system to shut down their competitors.
For those wanting to read up on how damaging the current software patent regime is I recommend this article from the Economist called Patents against Prosperity and this blog by Craig Hockenberry called the Rise and Fall of the Independent Developer.
The sad part though is that by the time Google manages to build up their patent arsenal to protect themselves, I am sure they will have managers who decide that in order to protect the interest of Google shareholders, Google should start to favour software patents, just like Bill Gates turned coat on the issue once they realized that while patents lawsuits would cost them a fortune, they could use it to kill of a lot of potential competitors.