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Microsoft: Google turned down a chance at Novell patent bid

updated 10:40 pm EDT, Wed August 3, 2011

Microsoft says Google could have joined patent bid

(Update: evidence) Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith claimed on Wednesday night that Google had actively turned down a chance to join the Novell wireless patent bid. Responding to a very critical Google open letter accusing Apple and Microsoft of trying to stifle innovation through the bidding and their patent lawsuits, Smith said Google had been offered a chance to bid as a partner. The Android designer had turned it down and effectively sacrificed the patents to its rivals.

"They said no," Smith said bluntly. Google hadn't responded to the statement.

His remarks if accurate imply that the Novell bids, which were won by a CPTN group led by Apple and Microsft, is primarily intended as a defensive mechanism to prevent lawsuits from patent trolls and other, usually smaller firms from suing anyone involved in the coalition. Many have presumed that the group was united with the aim of further suing Google and slowing down the adoption of Android.

Google's seriousness behind the related Nortel bid could also be called into question. Along with decisions to bid 'fun' numbers like Pi rather than commit fully to winning, it might have thrown away a real chance to fulfill its stated goals of making sure patents encourage innovation rather than suppress it. The search firm might have felt bound by the terms of its "stalking horse" bid, which would let it break up any existing patent licensing terms if it won; it would never have had that option in the winning group as companies with Nortel patent licenses, like Microsoft, would have insisted on keeping them intact.

Smith's comment could reduce the likelihood that the ongoing DOJ investigation of the Nortel patent sale works in Google's favor.

Update: Microsoft corporate communications lead Frank Shaw posted an e-mail excerpt that appears to show Google's counsel Kent Walker turning down the offer. Walker had been open to more but dismissed at least an initial attempt.

"A joint bid wouldn't be advisable for us on this one," he said.

The clip isn't complete and doesn't show the message in context. It's unclear as a result whether Google had made any later overtures.

By Electronista Staff


  1. LenE

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2004


    I wasn't there, but

    it certainly appears that Google's intentions were at the least impish (bidding up everyone else with no intention of winning), or at most evil.

    Put aside that this statement is coming from a lawyer, who was working for Microsoft. If his account is true, then it shows that Google's aim was either to own the patents on their own, breaking pre-existing licensing to hurt Microsoft specifically, and Apple in the LTE future. Outside of that, they didn't want to join the winning consortium, because it would have cost them money and not injured Apple, RIM or Microsoft.

    Now, they aren't out any money for the patents, and they are playing the victim card with the DOJ, to try to force their will upon the winning bidders.

    More evil every day.

    -- Len

  1. Bobfozz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2008



    Assuming what the lawyer for MS said is true (and if it wasn't Google would fire back) then this is disingenuous on G's part. Their bid was high enough that if they HAD won it would have cost THEM a lot of bucks ($3Bill+)... and then disperse?? I have read too much on how Larry Page is a "genius." This must not be the usual definition of genius because of the things he has "done," none of them look that complicated to me (granted, in hindsight). The world of technology is full of geniuses... some in different areas. Woz is a genius at technology, like it or not Woz haters. Read his book. The guy invented a lot of stuff. Jobs, IS a genius at marketing and figuring out what the customer will go for and how. Bill Gates is not stupid either, but he is more Machiavellian. Larry Ellison at Oracle is not a moron. And yes, everyone does stupid things, but the kind of stuff Google does leaves a bad taste in my mouth. No one talks much about Tim Cook, but he has solved many Apply supply problems and seems to have always a firm hand on the tiller. Smart guy. They all are. But Page, Schmidt? Conniving, duplicitous. Unlikeable. Eventually, it fails.

  1. facebook_Tim

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Aug 2011


    A bit of a miscommunication.

    I saw this story get referenced for a post on Android Central, and I felt that it was necessary to post a few clarifications and corrections regarding the tweets that were sent out.

    The responses from Brad Smith and Frank Shaw are referring to the Novell patents, which CPTN (a consortium made up of Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle, among others) bought at $450 million earlier this year. The email, which is dated prior to both patent auctions, makes it seem, but doesn't specifically mention by name either CPTN or Novell, that Microsoft looked to allow Google an 'in' into CPTN when looking at Novell's patents.

    The patents that were bought by Rockstar (Microsoft, RIM, Apple et al.) for $4.5 billion were originally owned by Nortel; right now, there's been no indication that Google was invited to join this consortium at all.

  1. chefpastry

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Nov 2005



    Just got cold busted.

  1. Tim_s

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2006


    More Info, Please

    There is a difference between Nortel and Novell. Two different auctions for different patents. Something is fishy here. Please, Mr. Microsoft Lawyer, give us proof that Google was invited to the Nortel auction. That's what the DoJ is sniffing around.

  1. BigMac2

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Dec 2000


    Google = Whining baby

    Google doesn't play fair, they are responsible for driving up the bids on Nortel patent with ridiculous number like Pi and earth-sun distance, their are responsible to completely change their Android UI after Eric Schmidt sees some iPhone prototype while being on Apple board. They are responsible for using and modifying java without any right and now Google try to play victim for the mess they created.

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