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'Patent wars are not helpful to consumers' -Google

"Patent wars are not helpful to consumers," says Pablo Chavez, director of Public Policy at Google, at a recently-held Technology Policy Institute conference. But given the timing of the recent Motorola Mobility offensive against Apple at the ITC, is Google sending the right signals?
August 21, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, the Apple vs. Samsung litigation currently pending in a California district court is nearing its end. Both parties have rested their cases. And the judge seems to be geared toward ruling that both parties have neglected proper handling of evidence. We’re pretty sure this won’t be the last of the Apple vs. Samsung rhetoric. And it’s not just Apple and Samsung involved. There are also the Motorola vs. Apple, Oracle vs. Google and a host of other pending (or appealed) cases that have been claiming the limelight.

But really, are these courtroom dramas doing anything good to advance innovation, even for the companies who want just compensation for their intellectual properties? Even Google seems to be tiring of all the fuss.

Patent wars not helpful, says Google rep

“Patent wars are not helpful to consumers,” says Pablo Chavez, director of Public Policy at Google at a recently-held Technology Policy Institute conference, CNet‘s Declan McCullagh reports. In response to a question fielded by News Corp senior VP for government affairs Rick Lane, Chavez says patent wars are harmful. “They’re not helpful to the marketplace. They’re not helpful to innovation.”

In fact, patents on “abstract ideas” are said to be against innovation, Google posits in a brief to the Supreme Court (PDF) co-signed with Metlife, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and other companies.

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.

Chavez differentiates software patents from other kinds of intellectual property, such as those in the medical industry, noting that there are “a lot of structural differences” between software and other industries.

However, Google’s latest lawsuit against Apple, through its Motorola Mobility Subsidiary, may be viewed to be in conflict with Chavez’ views. Motorola has recently accused Apple of infringing on seven technology patents, and has sought the ITC for a ban on iOS devices and Apple computers, including the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac computers.

Business Insider‘s Seth Fiegerman says the “timing is questionable.”

News Corp’s Lane has accused Google of being anti-competitive in Motorola’s move against Apple. To illustrate, he cited News Corp’s investments in iOS apps. If iPads were to be banned from being imported in the U.S., the company’s investments in iPad apps would be negatively impacted, he argued.

But wait, there’s more …

Still, there might be hope. While the practice of acquiring smaller companies for their patent portfolios is widespread, businesses are now trying to act smarter in purchasing intellectual property. Take for instance, the Kodak patent auction, in which even companies currently in litigation are trying to partner with each other in order to drive the asking price down.

TechRadar cites advice from IP lawyer Ilya Kazi from Mathys & Squire:

We are already seeing this somewhat in the Kodak patent auction; rather than a competitive arms race for each side to buy more weapons, the various interested parties seem to have quite sensibly teamed up to buy the portfolio collectively and defuse the threat.

Perhaps the bigger motivation here is money. Pretty soon, Samsung, Apple and other companies will tire of paying millions in patent litigation-related expenses. Kazi says that teamwork could be the solution, and that “the dust will settle eventually and [Samsung and Apple] will be reluctant to spend as much on legal fees again.”