Google's general counsel: software patents "gumming up" innovation

According to Google's general counsel, Kent Walker, software patents are "gumming up" innovation in the smartphone market. His statements come during a time when lawsuits and patent claims are being made more and more regularly by companies, as well as patent holding groups. Walker believes that the current environment is damaging to consumers and also to the smartphone market as a whole, as BGR reports. The first point that was raised by Kent Walker was the following:

“Software patents are kind of gumming up the works of innovation.”

Google's chairman, Eric Schmidt, said recently that they would "stand behind HTC", after the Taiwanese company received a lawsuit from Apple over a patented design. Schmidt's wording suggested that competitors were acting more out of jealousy. In a statement made to Bloomberg, he said the following:

“We have seen an explosion of Android devices entering the market and, because of our successes, competitors are responding with lawsuits as they cannot respond through innovations.”

Schmidt claims that the company would be prepared to buy the rights to patents in order to more easily compete with rivals, such as Apple and now Microsoft. It is currently unclear what they are prepared to buy in order to gain an edge over their competitors and retain their position as the owners of the leading smartphone operating system. Walker's stance, however, was this:

“Each side can blow the other up on some level – everybody can block the other’s products from coming to market,” Walker said. “You create this mutually assured destruction scenario, but it’s very expensive to get all those munitions. Buying patents so you can hit the other guy, it’s not good form. You hate to unilaterally disarm here, but we haven’t in our history.”

He said also that he is confident that Google has the muscle to compete against the competitors in the market.

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28 Comments

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I agree. Neowin is full of retards who talk out of their arses just for the sake of drama or causing strife. Kent does have a point and his background (in software and patents working for Airtouch, eBay) indicates he knows what he is talking about (whether you agree with it or not). Mabye some of these "geniuses" at Neowin should take a course in Intellectual Property Law and patents and see what all the fuss is about.

They should have gotten Nortel patents. Or get Blackberry today. They are bound to have some good patents on them.

Majesticmerc said,

If other companies are able to compete by building on each others ideas (but necessarily their implementations), then there will be no single triumphant smartphone, and innovation and extension of ideas can flourish. But if companies start waving pieces of paper at each other every time another company comes up with a similar solution to an identical problem, eventually the competition will get extinguished because they can't afford to compete because of licencing fees and lawsuits, and the whole market would stagnate. This is exactly why we need patent reform.

Bah, companies are waving papers since before time. Its irritating to read about (especially if you're fav corp gets the donkey punch) but altogether its same old, same old. It does not stop any innovation 'cause that's why corps have legal divisions.

So if Schmidt chooses to bitch about this its his right but Google is not an adorable little underdog anymore. If they feel the OEMs being kicked then change their own business policy not just let HTC and the others pay for the licences Google forgot while making the that frankenstein-software they call Android. The problem is they just don't care - and neither did the OEMs 'cause as long as you can sell tens of millions of those low-end droid devices their legal costs and licencing fees were covered for good. This is the first time when an Android OEM is actually in a really deep sh-- mess. Let's see what Google mean by "standing behind HTC". In my opinion they were standing behind their OEMs since 2008. Now its time to stand before them.

“Software patents are kind of gumming up the works of innovation.”

Wait, what? Patents are standing in the way of innovation? If your innovating that means you will be coming up with news idea for which there are no patents yet or you are creating new solution for an old (already solved) problem, in which case you will be walking around the patent for the existing solution as yours is different.

I think this guy has got innovation mixed up with copying or something...

Leonick said,
“Software patents are kind of gumming up the works of innovation.”

Wait, what? Patents are standing in the way of innovation? If your innovating that means you will be coming up with news idea for which there are no patents yet or you are creating new solution for an old (already solved) problem, in which case you will be walking around the patent for the existing solution as yours is different.

I think this guy has got innovation mixed up with copying or something...


I agree. Google is being a ****ing troll because they are at a loss. Naturally if they owned patents, they would pull the same **** on others. ****ing 2-faced *******s.

They can also cover really obvious ideas, really vague cover-everything ideas, or just be sat on for later monetary gain. All solvable to an extent, but I think that's kind of what he's getting at.

Kirkburn said,
They can also cover really obvious ideas, really vague cover-everything ideas, or just be sat on for later monetary gain. All solvable to an extent, but I think that's kind of what he's getting at.

Exactly. The patent system works reasonably well for physical inventions, but when it comes to software, it's difficult to know at what point intellectual property becomes patentable. As far as I can see, the patent office allows patents to be granted on what are essentially ideas, instead of actual implementations, which is crippling innovation since companies can sue each other for simply making software that has similar functionality, regardless of how different the actual implementation might be.

As a result, the software industry has basically turned into a patent arms race, where each company is building a bigger and bigger patent portfolio in order to defend themselves from patent lawsuits from the other companies, and attack those that they see as a threat to their profits, such as Apple vs everyone in the smartphone sector.

Unfortunately the smartphone war won't be won on the merits of the actual hardware/software, it'll be won by well paid lawyers beating the competition down with vague patent infringement claims.

Jebadiah said,

I agree. Google is being a ****ing troll because they are at a loss. Naturally if they owned patents, they would pull the same **** on others. ****ing 2-faced *******s.

That's why they been buying companies and giving away the patents to the technology, such as On2 video technology?

Morden said,
I do hope its never gonna be WON by any one company, especially not Google.

If other companies are able to compete by building on each others ideas (but necessarily their implementations), then there will be no single triumphant smartphone, and innovation and extension of ideas can flourish. But if companies start waving pieces of paper at each other every time another company comes up with a similar solution to an identical problem, eventually the competition will get extinguished because they can't afford to compete because of licencing fees and lawsuits, and the whole market would stagnate. This is exactly why we need patent reform.

etempest said,

That's why they been buying companies and giving away the patents to the technology, such as On2 video technology?

+1
Neowin is full of retards that can't make sense of simple facts such as Jebadiah.

Jebadiah said,

I agree. Google is being a ****ing troll because they are at a loss. Naturally if they owned patents, they would pull the same **** on others. ****ing 2-faced *******s.

That is just idiotic.

Leonick said,
“Software patents are kind of gumming up the works of innovation.”

Wait, what? Patents are standing in the way of innovation? If your innovating that means you will be coming up with news idea for which there are no patents yet or you are creating new solution for an old (already solved) problem, in which case you will be walking around the patent for the existing solution as yours is different.

I think this guy has got innovation mixed up with copying or something...

Yeah, because nothing they do is innovative. /s

Leonick said,
“Software patents are kind of gumming up the works of innovation.”

Wait, what? Patents are standing in the way of innovation? If your innovating that means you will be coming up with news idea for which there are no patents yet or you are creating new solution for an old (already solved) problem, in which case you will be walking around the patent for the existing solution as yours is different.

I think this guy has got innovation mixed up with copying or something...

Yeah, because nothing they do is innovative. /s

burhan9k said,
and purchasing 100 companies every year is innovative! stupid google

Google don't buy your company and are angry?

^ Totally missing the point.
Its not that they are trying to rip off other company's it that the patents that are filed are so vague that they file law suits and bully instead of making a better product themselves.

ufis said,
^ Totally missing the point.
Its not that they are trying to rip off other company's it that the patents that are filed are so vague that they file law suits and bully instead of making a better product themselves.

They do - as far as i see its okay to call Apple (for example) a patent troll but Google is just a copycat wich is the same w/o the legal support. Its time they realize that their OEMs should be defended by them, not just hang them out to dry while glorifying themselves as the one and only innovative company (wich is simply not true). Just go and claim patents/buy licences like everyone else or suffer the legal consequences like everyone else.

Well put Morden, and notice how MS is trying to leverage that lack of backing with OEMs for their own products (wp7 prime example) who's license come with such backing as a value add.

"competitors are responding with lawsuits as they cannot respond through innovations"

Well, if i stole others' patients I wouldn't accuse them of being uninnovative...

Morden said,
"competitors are responding with lawsuits as they cannot respond through innovations"

Well, if i stole others' patients I wouldn't accuse them of being uninnovative...

Patents are good to protect creators and help business to monetize years of research. This is theory and I think almost everyone will agree with that.

But last dispute between Apple and HTC is over a patent written for computers more than 15 years ago, when nobody thinks or imaginates a smartphone, this is not stole other's patents, this is Patent Trolling.

Pepeda said,

Patents are good to protect creators and help business to monetize years of research. This is theory and I think almost everyone will agree with that.

But last dispute between Apple and HTC is over a patent written for computers more than 15 years ago, when nobody thinks or imaginates a smartphone, this is not stole other's patents, this is Patent Trolling.


Does it really matter when a company got the patent? If a technology fits the description it does, simple as that...

Leonick said,

Does it really matter when a company got the patent? If a technology fits the description it does, simple as that...

With that line of thinking, there would be nothing to ever invent again. Yes it does matter. Does that mean I can patent flying cars, just because they haven't been invented. I won't patent "how" they're going to fly, just that they're going to fly. Maybe a spaceship. Not how they'll be made, a ship in space. Get real.

Edited by farmeunit, Jul 28 2011, 12:42am :

kingdomcon said,
,said the person without patents :[

Come on Google, play the game well, stop crying.
Patent means, someone also made the invention and innovation.

So it's Not innovation anymore when it's already patented. That's copying without licensing on the patent owner!