In an apparent attempt to slow down Google’s momentum in the mobile software market, Microsoft Corp. has filed a complaint with a federal court claiming that Motorola Inc., a proponent of Google’s Android operating system, has violated age-old patents. These lawsuits are becoming increasingly common, with handset-maker HTC suing Apple and vice versa, all while software developer Oracle has filed complaints against Google directly. It appears as if the entire technology world is set on hampering advancement in the mobile marketplace. Is it fair for these companies to assert that the prehistoric patents are even applicable in today’s technological climate? How are these lawsuits going to change mobile devices around the world?
Microsoft could be exacting revenge upon once-amicable Motorola as the manufacturer fully endorsed Android a while back, going as far as saying that the entire company’s future is in the hands of Google’s software. As a result, there might be some pent up rage between the technology conglomerates. The more likely reason for the lawsuit, however, is the expected release of Windows Phone 7 (WP7). With Google’s momentum going into this holiday season, there is no doubt that Microsoft is willing to do anything to either promote unique features of WP7 or prevent Google from stealing their potential customers.
If Microsoft is ultimately worried about Google, why bother complaining about Motorola? It’s an observant question, and Carlo Daffara, an open-source analyst, provided some interesting insight into the legal battle via Twitter. He stated that two of the nine patents in question protect Google due to their relation to the Open Invention Network, a company that purchases patents and gives them to companies royalty-free to specifically prevent suing Linux and Linux-based applications, the basis for Google’s mobile OS. Motorola, however, is not a member of the OIN and is not protected from lawsuits of this kind. It appears as if Microsoft’s legal team may be more cunning than they originally appeared.
Considering the fact that there is an established network for many major software providers that protects Google from being directly confronted, is it right for smaller hardware manufacturers to take the hit? Apple did the same thing to HTC way back in March, stating that they stole 20 elements from the iPhone’s user interface and hardware patents. While HTC was fighting against the tyrannical reign of Apple, Google seemed to merely provide moral support for the patent issues that it created. The only company that has had the unmitigated temerity to confront omnipotent Google is Oracle, the database management company and owner of Java, an important and supposedly misused feature on Android devices.
It appears as if companies are using lawsuits as a means to carry out competition more and more nowadays. In fact, a Texas jury recently ruled against Apple in a patent dispute over Coverflow. The small company that brought the suit to light is supposed to receive $625 million in reparations, a ruling Apple is already trying to have thrown out.
What do you think? Is it justified for Microsoft to file patent claims against Motorola? Is it right for disputes about innovative technology to be settled in a court rather than in competition? Are companies generally fearful of what other products are offering or are they suing like crazy to boost profits? Let us know in the comments below.