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Google Files Antitrust Complaint Against Microsoft, Nokia 233

Posted by Soulskill
from the throwing-down dept.
x0d writes with news that Google filed an EU antitrust complaint against Microsoft and Nokia on Thursday, claiming they are using proxy companies to make smartphone-related patent claims in an attack on Google's Android business. From the article: "Google also plans to share its complaint about patent 'trolls' with U.S. competition regulators. The Internet-search giant alleges that Microsoft and Nokia have entered into agreements that enable entities such as Canada-based Mosaid Technologies Inc. to legally enforce their patent rights and share the resulting revenue. Google, which hasn't been sued by Mosaid or related firms, described its filing with European regulators as a pre-emptive measure against a developing legal hazard for Android partners. The threat is that if phone makers perceive a significant legal risk in using Android, they may opt instead for Microsoft's Windows Phone software."
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Google Files Antitrust Complaint Against Microsoft, Nokia

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  • Distrust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EzInKy (115248) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:39AM (#40179215)

    As much as I distrust Google, which is quite a bit ever since they started asking for phone numbers, they still haven't reached the same level of fear that I have Microsoft and its insistence on forcing everyone into its collective. Add to that the fact that it's also against Nokia, a company I once adored before they jumped in bed with the devil incarnate, I must now say "good on you Google!"

  • Legal Risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:40AM (#40179221)

    (Posting AC because I'm at work, not because I'm going to get modded into the stone age for what I'm about to say...)

    Google ... described its filing with European regulators as a pre-emptive measure against a developing legal hazard for Android partners. The threat is that if phone makers perceive a significant legal risk in using Android...

    Um, if there's a legal hazard in using Android, maybe that means Google/manufacturer's should license patents from Microsoft (or others). I know the current belief on /. is that everybody should be able to make whatever they want, even if they copy someone else's work but, ignoring whether or not I agree with that view, that's simply not how the world works. Sorry - it isn't. The world works such that, if you invent it and you patent it, you have the right to get paid when someone else uses it (or outright block them from using it for a time). You may not like that, and many don't, but that's how the world works. Not just the US - the world. Google may view that as a problem but the solution is simple - build Android so that it doesn't infringe on any patents or license the patents so that there's no legal risk.

    I know I'll be in the minority on this one but, sorry - the system is what the system is. It's simple, design around the patent or license it. Or don't and deal with the consequences.

  • Welcome to SCO 2.0 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spacepimp (664856) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:41AM (#40179237) Homepage

    Same agenda, only now the desktop isn't at stake, it is the mobile market sector. Same FUD, different day. Linux was proven and hardened after SCO, but in many ways it was too late, the tech world had moved on. MS is hoping for more of the same.

  • Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:42AM (#40179241)

    I'd like to see redHat, Suse, Canonical, etc do the same thing over the UEFI controls coming up. That really needs to be taken out of their hands.

  • by Erich (151) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:46AM (#40179277) Homepage Journal
    Google is at least trying to say "Hey, this whole patent troll environment sucks. You should really do something about this problem!"

    Hopefully someone will listen to their complaint before they are forced to take matters into their own hands.

    And I think everyone also sees the next step, which is retaliation. Google just bought all those Motorola patents, and having them shut down Nokia and Apple with all those 17-year-old cell phone patents would really be a step up in the Mutually-Assured-Destruction conflict, and everyone would suffer for it.

    Taking this approach with the nukes in your back pocket seems much more civil than approach taken by the others.

  • Re:Hey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:46AM (#40179279)

    Sorry, but what? When has Google ever used patent trolls? To the contrary, Google has fought patent trolls more aggressively than any tech company.

  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:47AM (#40179293)

    The problem is that right now, they are driving up the real cost of Android phones, making money from it, and spreading FUD. It should be quite clear after the B&N screw-up that what they're doing is extortion.

  • Re:Legal Risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:50AM (#40179327)

    Licensing patents from trolls is like paying protection money to criminals. You're only providing them resources and incentive to continue their extortion and find new victims. The only right thing to do is put the criminals out of business, not pay them off.

  • Re:Legal Risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:50AM (#40179333)
    Um no. While there are some here that would disregard all intellectual property, the vast majority are in disagreement about whether some IP should be protected as being valid especially in the area of software where patenting things like one-click may be ridiculous. The current situation has been a long time coming as companies like MS and Google have been stockpiling patents for defensive purposes against patent trolls. Unfortunately the cold war has now erupted into open hostilities. From what I can tell, it's easier to track who isn't suing. The situation will be addressed but it will be a bloody fight. At this point it is hard to tell which companies are using patents as weapons against competitors and which are trying to legitimately defend their IP.
  • Business as usual (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:52AM (#40179355) Journal

    The threat is that if phone makers perceive a significant legal risk in using Android, they may opt instead for Microsoft's Windows Phone software."

    What part of this is illegal? Isn't this how patents are supposed to work?

  • Re:Hey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:52AM (#40179361)

    You do know what an antitrust complaint is about don't you? It's not about having a monopoly, it's about abusing one. When has Google abused its search monopoly?

  • by shione (666388) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:53AM (#40179371) Journal

    Not only do they extract out of android phone makers many times more than make from their own windows phones but now they want to extract cash out of google as well.

    If miscrosoft spent less time sabotaging, suing and backstabbing their partners and more time innovating and focussing on their own products, maybe their company would experience more growth. Only then would it be able to turn its reputation around like IBM has.

  • Re:Distrust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:53AM (#40179373) Homepage Journal

    As long as they keep killing the competition with their competence instead of compelling us to consume their crap with coercion then I'm fine with that. I don't use google because there are no alternatives, there are alternatives to everything they offer. I use google because so far it is superior for my needs.

  • Re:Distrust (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EzInKy (115248) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:59AM (#40179449)

    Killing the competition accomplishes the same thing. Think about it, would Google have asked for phone numbers and insisted on using real names a decade ago? They've got power now and their going to use it.

  • by shione (666388) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:01AM (#40179469) Journal

    They don't do it openly. Ask microsoft which patents android infringes and THEY WILL NOT TELL YOU. Every android phone maker that has paid the blackmail money^h^h^h settled has also had to sign a non disclosure statement. This is either because microsoft doesnt want the other phonemakers it hasnt gone after yet to create a workaround^h^h^h not infringe or because microsoft knows it's standing is very weak.

  • Re:Hey (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oakgrove (845019) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:02AM (#40179481)
    Do you have anything other than a tired disingenuous analogy you just pulled out of your ass? Because last I checked this specific anti-trust complaint is about Nokia and Microsoft backing patent trolls. Google has never done this. Furthermore, if there are legitimate complaints to be leveled toward Google then by all means do so. But to just make a blanket statement that Google shouldn't defend their interests (especially against something so underhanded as patent trolling) because "they did bad too HUr dur" is not a rational perspective.
  • Re:Hey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by andydread (758754) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:02AM (#40179483)
    So Google goes around filing suits on trivial software patents that should have never been filed and should have never been granted? Can you point me to one instance of Google conspiring with others to subdue the marketpace and kill open source software with the use of software patents? One instance? BTW what public relations firm to you work for?
  • Re:Distrust (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mclaincausey (777353) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:04AM (#40179507) Homepage
    That doesn't make any sense. It's easy to avoid Microsoft. Try not using Google. Way harder.
  • by shione (666388) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:12AM (#40179581) Journal

    The patent row between motorola and microsoft began even before google considered buying motorola. And the motorola buyout by google was more in response to microsoft suing android phone makers so google went after motorola's phone patents before anyone else (microsoft) could grab it to add to their warchest.

    Talking purely patents, cross licensing sucks too because it locks out new players from the playing field. What we need is the abolishment of all patents or the reduction to their lifetime to a very short period.

  • Re:Hey (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zero.kalvin (1231372) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:13AM (#40179589)
    Yes they did, but they didn't force you to use them, and they didn't make it harder for you to use other services nor did they hid the results concerning other services. Lets not name some other company who made it difficult for others to install certain browsers on their OS, and kind of forced you to use their own browser. Good is kind of the equivalent of you going to the only supermarket in the country and when you ask them about coffee they first thing they state is their own coffee but followed by every other brand. I am sorry but that's not abusing a monopoly.
  • Re:Legal Risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iserlohn (49556) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:15AM (#40179615) Homepage

    Or maybe the patent system *itself* is being abused - bad patents are too prevalent and it costs to much to fight frivolous claims.

    Why live with a bad system just because it is? Is it wrong to fight for a better society that is more fair and can provide better incentives to create works?

  • Re:Legal Risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by andydread (758754) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:15AM (#40179619)
    Why bother sitting down at your computer and writing any code? Even if your code is wholly original they still have a right to take ownership of your code through the use of trivial and obvious software patents? So if you write your own code that renders text before images and its completely your code from your brain. And its totally different from any code that MS wrote you are saying that Microsoft should be able come and take ownership of your code? The pathetic people that cheer for this kind of abuse in the marketplace do so against their own interests. pathetic.
  • Re:Distrust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:28AM (#40179797) Homepage Journal

    Could you list all the products Google had out a decade ago that now require you provide a phone number and real name to use, that didn't then?

    Does Google search require this, for example? (Answer: no)
    What about GMail? (Answer: no)
    Google groups? (Answer: no)
    Google maps? (Answer: no)
    Google news? (Answer: no)
    OK, well, iGoogle? (Answer: no)
    Youtube? (Answer: no)

    OK... so what are we talking about here?

    I know that the generic Google account system recommends you give it a cellphone number, so you can recover your password more securely. But you're not required to. In fact, the only tool I'm aware of that requires you give your phone number is Google Voice, which it's required you do since its inception, because it needs it in order to work properly.

    What about real names? Well, there's Google+, but that's new. And it has plenty of competition. And in fact, the real names thing is probably why Google+ hasn't taken off. So that pretty much kills that argument.

    Real names are also required for... well, anything that uses payments (Google Play, for example, if, and only if, you buy something, and AdWords), because, well, credit cards are difficult to charge if you don't have a fucking name. But that's ALWAYS been the case, since Froogle.

    AdSense does too, but again always has done. (Yes, Google knows who I am [blogspot.com])

    So, really, what's your argument here?

    Google has always had services that require real names and/or real telephone numbers. They're pushing the latter recently solely to help you recover lost passwords, and they're pushing the former only in relation to one service that, by no stretch of the imagination, can remotely be considered to be having monopoly power, and whose primary competitor, which pre-existed Google+ by many years, has always had the same policy.

  • Re:Legal Risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:40AM (#40179975)

    Here's the thing. Every single one of the big phone manufacturers has a thousand patents that every other phone manufacturer has infringed on since the beginning of the industry. They all know this, but for literally decades everyone involved was smart enough to look at the situation and say "Oh hell no! I'm not starting that fight". The in strolled the new kid on the block, they bought some patents on the core technologies (enough to ensure they were inside the circle of mutually assured destruction along with the other manufacturers) but then they went and patented a few (frankly quite silly) UI patents. And so they thought to themselves, we might not be able to start the holy war on the core technologies, but we can certainly fire off just a few shots to protect our user interface. Which is a lot like the US during the cold war saying "surely the Soviets won't mind if we launch nuclear tipped cruise missiles at Kiev, after all, they're not ICBMs".

    And the result has been about what you would expect. All out patent war in the cell phone industry, with constantly shifting alliances, tactics, and weapons. We've had import bans because a photo gallery app slid just past the available pictures to communicate to the user that they were at the end. We've had court cases fought over "Swipe to unlock". We've had multi-billion dollar companies bought, sold, and gutted for their patent portfolios. And, most importantly and the issue no one seems to pay attention to, we've created an environment where there is absolutely no chance, literally zero, of a new player entering the game.

    So, you say to Google "build Android so that it doesn't infringe on patents". I say 50% of those patents are invalid, and it's just going to take the right court case to show that once and for all. Of the remaining 50%, everyone in the industry stomps all over them, to the point where even the biggest players can't be sure who owns what, who is defending what, and what their next project might infringe upon. It's broken. It's not really Apple's fault, even if they were the ones to set of Armageddon the system has been screwed up for too long to blame them. Any system that relies on cold war style MAD is going to break down eventually.

  • Re:Legal Risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oxdas (2447598) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:42AM (#40180003)

    Um, if there's a legal hazard in using Android, maybe that means Google/manufacturer's should license patents from Microsoft (or others). I know the current belief on /. is that everybody should be able to make whatever they want, even if they copy someone else's work but, ignoring whether or not I agree with that view, that's simply not how the world works. Sorry - it isn't. The world works such that, if you invent it and you patent it, you have the right to get paid when someone else uses it (or outright block them from using it for a time). You may not like that, and many don't, but that's how the world works. Not just the US - the world. Google may view that as a problem but the solution is simple - build Android so that it doesn't infringe on any patents or license the patents so that there's no legal risk.

    I know I'll be in the minority on this one but, sorry - the system is what the system is. It's simple, design around the patent or license it. Or don't and deal with the consequences.

    Software patents are not valid in Europe, so no, this is not the way the "world" works. It is the way the U.S. works, but only since 1981. Prior to that year (and for a practical purposes the early 90's) software patents were expressly forbade by the USPTO and the Supreme Court. The definition of patentable material has expanded immensely in the last 30 years in US. Europe has been drifting toward allowing software patents, but the debate is as fierce there as it is here.

    With the U.S. Supreme Court recently reasserting itself into the patent debate, this is a great time for Google to push against software patents and Europe is the place to start.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:41AM (#40180771)

    Open source projects are now dumping? Nice theory you have there. Andriod was created because Nokia's OS efforts were a catastrophic fucking failure. Andriod's agile open development model turned out to be superior to Nokia's slow, closed model.

    That said, open source android is just a base. Google's real android product is a suite of useful premium services that get distributed and accessed on Google's terms, to earn ad revenue. These services run on the android base. You are free to build a phone with or without Google's premium services. There are even 3rd party app stores.

    If you want to talk about dumping, lets discuss how much you pay for windows as an OEM install on a new PC vs buying a retail box.

  • Re:Legal Risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oxdas (2447598) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:51PM (#40181575)

    I just don't get the same impression of the people at Google, or Slashdot for that matter. While a few people on Slashdot are against the concept of intellectual property, the vast majority of those opposed to software patents and 100 year copyright terms do support the concept of intellectual property. As for Google, they are certainly pro intellectual property, but they too strike out at the structure of the current system.

    I see the debate as really between two world views on intellectual property. One side believes that intellectual property is akin to physical property and exists primarily to enrich its owners (for example, Florian Mueller recently compared IP to real estate). The other side believes that intellectual property is primarily for the benefit of society and that the enrichment of its owners is valid if and only if the benefits of innovation outweigh the costs to society. If you fall into the former, then the expansion of patents is just the strengthening of property rights. If you fall into the latter, then the expansion of patents is only valid if it results in increases in innovation for society at large. For software patents, the latter camp believes them to be a net hindrance to innovation and therefore invalid (whether or not someone makes money off of them becomes irrelevant).

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