Google lodges complaint against Nokia and Microsoft
By Sophie Mosca | Monday 04 June 2012
A new front opened in the ‘patent war’, on 31 May. Google lodged a complaint with the European Commission against Nokia and Microsoft. It accuses them of colluding on patents in a drive to use intellectual property to attack its Android system through organised litigation. The aim of such attacks is to raise the costs of cell phones.
Google argues that it is the victim of attacks on its cell phone operating system, Android, adopted by almost all cell phone manufacturers. Its action comes in response to accusations by its competitors: Apple, RIM (BlackBerry), Nokia, Microsoft and Oracle. Microsoft recently accused Motorola – acquired recently by Google – of using patents to hinder competition; Google responds by denouncing the use of patents by Microsoft and its partner Nokia to circumvent anti-trust rules in the EU. In addition to buying up patents among Android’s opponents to keep Google from acquiring them, another method of attack is to transfer these key patents to a shell company in charge of making a bigger profit from them through litigation.
According to Google, “Nokia and Microsoft are colluding to raise the costs of mobile devices for consumers by creating patent trolls”. In intellectual property jargon related to ICT, this term refers to a firm or natural person specialised in patent litigation. Such firms or individuals acquire patents that they do not exploit. Their activity consists of issuing licenses for the exploitation of these patents by companies that produce goods or services and optimising the royalties they collect, including through the use of lawsuits to build pressure on those who protest.
The troll in question, alleges Google, is the Canadian firm Mosaid, which has bought 1,200 Nokia patents op top of the 2,000 it acquired with its takeover of Core Wireless. Google expects these patents to be used against it because they concern essential functions for cell phones, which international standardisation bodies have developed into standards. As such, these patents are covered by specific rules obliging the holder to deliver them to their competitors using licensing on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND). Google alleges that neither Microsoft nor Nokia respects these commitments and points out that Nokia made an undertaking, in 2006, not to use litigation on patents belonging to it against the Linux kernel, used by Android.
The Commission has already opened investigations for patent abuse against Samsung and Motorola (see
Europolitics 4354 and 4399).