Google’s crocodile tears

Google’s chief legal officer posted a piece on the official Google blog, whining complaining that some of Google’s rivals were ganging up to file software patent lawsuits focused on Google’s Android operating system. He specifically claimed that Microsoft and Apple have gotten “into bed together” to harm Android and Google, by purchasing patents that could apply to Android.

This was probably another bad PR move on the part of Google.

For one thing, Google uses what are essentially monopoly profits in online search to fund Android, which it gives away free to all comers. Free Android is an attempt to replicate Google’s search monopoly online in the mobile space, and it is hardly a charitable activity for the good of users.

Second, there is a little firm up the coast from Google you might have heard about: Microsoft. Microsoft, of course, knows something about anti-competitive behavior.  In response to Google’s claim that others were ganging up against it, here is what Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith had to say reply:

Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.

I might paraphrase by suggesting to Google that one shouldn’t bring a knife to a gunfight. TechCrunch posted an article characterizing the tit-for-tat between Google and Microsoft thusly:

Google threw a punch, Microsoft fires back with a missile.

That is the headline, but if you click through be sure to check out the full URL of the TechCrunch piece.

Anyway, the bottom line is that Google would be well advised not to play the pity card carelessly. And maybe they might think about not letting the chief legal officer post in the future without a very careful review by a knowledgeable PR-type. Although, truth be told, I don’t know that there is such a person at Google, a company with a long history of gaffes.  One of my personal favorites:

Last month, Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, suggested that anyone who didn’t like their house appearing in photographs on Google Street View could “just move”, while appearing on an American talk show.

The truth is that software patents can be misused as a type of shakedown scam targeting smaller tech firms with great ideas. However, Google is well-positioned to respond to any inappropriate claims by either Microsoft or Apple. They should not try to paint themselves as helpless in this fight.