A Curse of One Thousand Intellectual Ventures

The patent apocalypse draws near. The armies are lining up on either side, each digging into predictable positions. The pro-Apple camp, as always, is much more mobilized and consistent, their generals barking the talking points, while the Google side is a rag tag collection of disparate views and positions, with no community leader or rallying points.

Google has started an assault by posting some hypocritical and self-serving missives. I would expect absolutely nothing less in such a situation. When you’re in a position of weaknesses you attack the things that make you weak. It is predictable and
consistent with every corporation since the dawn of time. However I will repeat the statement that this patent situation is going to explode, with the fury of a million explosive shards of glass, in a lot of people’s faces. Trying to keep Android down is going to become an expensive venture for many. After the $4.5 billion Nortel patent buy, next up is Interdigital. Another $10 billion or so to invent nothing, but merely to have legal weapons to reduce consumer choice and increase prices (bizarrely there are people who are not at the receiving end of the financial rewards yet who cheer such a thing on)

Look at the 1000+ patents that IBM trollishly sold to Google for a thus far undisclosed price. IBM would certainly have maintained a license over all of them, if not the right to revert ownership in the case they need it for defensive purposes, but it’s notable that
more than a few cover database technologies. IBM’s #1 competitor in the very lucrative database world is Oracle. Oracle is attacking Google. Oracle and IBM stay off of each other’s backs in patent court because they both hold countless patents that the other infringes. It’s for this reason that they have a detente with Microsoft as well.

Oracle’s database product is financially much more important to Oracle — foundational of the entire organization — than Android is to Google (as so many of the Apple fanbase constantly tell us: Android contributes little to Google beyond ensuring an avenue of
contact with consumers remains open). Google now has the potential to seriously stir the pot.

An injunction against Oracle selling the foundation of their organization That would be devastating to Oracle. As Google starts to assert their new pile, I expect the Oracle claims against Android to resolve into some nervous handshake and forced smiles.

Oracle has a lot more to lose than Google does. Oracle is in a position of serious patent weakness relative to Google’s service-based offerings.

And then there is Apple. The company is built upon the iPad and the iPhone, both based on all of the same foundations. A gigantic $360 billion dollar corporation based upon the BSD-derived iOS.

Here’s a thought exercise: Put a bounty out – $1 billion dollars for any credible patent that iOS infringe. There are doubtless tens of thousands of such examples (anyone who thinks that infringement is usually about stealing ideas does not understand software patents or the software process). Do such a process openly, giving Apple a chance to offer even more. That war chest can only hold out for so long. It is only a matter of time before Microsoft offers up any of their countless patents that iOS infringes: Their shareholders would demand it.

You only need one to stick. Apple’s entire business would be under assault.

“But that would be anti-competitive!” you say. Yes, of course. That’s exactly the point. Patents by their definition are anti-competition on the premise that they’re pro-innovation. In current practice they are anti-innovation.