First of all, I feel not unlike Rodney Dangerfield these days, what with the President’s lack of regard for my schedule and now the reports of Rockstar Consortium’s decision to file a lawsuit that came on Halloween night when I’m busy trying to ferret out all the Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups from the candy my kids got. Thanks, Rockstar.
So here’s my question for the consortium members: At what point do you spend your time improving your own products and innovating instead of hiring people to deconstruct the success of others?
I don’t know the going rate for cell phone reverse engineers is these days, but I know that it’s probably a pretty penny especially since Rockstar reportedly hired 10 of them. Ten people. To spend all day and night ripping apart a product to see if it infringes on one of 4,000 patents.
Haystack, meet the needle.
It took you a little over two years to do it but low and behold, you feel as though you’ve gotten the smoking gun, the holy grail that will do…what? Tie your money up in litigation for years? And in that time span, your hope is that the Android share of the cell phone market will decline, right? That the man on the street is going to go “ZOMG! My Android-based phone was made by a company who infringed on a patent!! I simply must change platforms now, for I cannot be a party to this madness.”
Yeah, I’m sure that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
What is so disconcerting about this whole thing is this:
“The principals have plausible deniability,” said Thomas Ewing, an IP attorney who spoke to Wiredabout Rockstar. “They can say with a straight face: ‘They’re an independent company. We don’t control them.’ And there’s some truth to that.”
“Plausible deniability”? What is this, the movie Independence Day? We’re not talking about some alien holed up in Area 51 which is (probably) fictional and no one told the President so that if the aliens ever did attack, the public wouldn’t go crazy saying he knew all about it which is pretty much the whole plot of the movie so I totally just saved you a Netflix rental, you’re welcome.
What we’re talking about is heads of the major smart phone manufacturers getting beat into the ground by phones using an operating system that is, whether better than theirs or not, out-selling them so they have stamped their little feet and said “Fine. We can’t beat you fair and square? We’ll have our consortium sue you.”
Again, “plausible deniability?” Please do not pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Any deniability on the facts surrounding what is really going on here is completely implausible. When it comes to Google specifically, there’s this:
Rockstar may want to keep the patent conflict as a kind of “proxy war” between Google and its competitors. But Google has plenty of patents, and this new attack seems assured to bring a counterattack.
Right? I mean, in what world does Microsoft and Apple and the other 10%-ers believe that Google won’t retaliate?
Here’s the final kicker, from this article by Seth Fitzgerald:
One of the most intriguing aspects of the lawsuit is that Google had tried to buy the Nortel patents for $900 million but lost when Rockstar put up a significantly larger bid. Google went on to counter Rockstar by acquiring Motorola Mobility for $12 billion. Despite losing the chance to acquire Nortel’s patents, Rockstar claims Google went about using Nortel’s ideas anyway.
I maintained back then and still do now that Google didn’t want those patents (read here and here). What they wanted to do was drive the price way up, and they did. Fast forward to now, and while Rockstar has spent two years and lots of money digging for their “Ah ha!” moment so they could come out swinging, Google went right on with their bad self and put their money into innovations such as Google Glass. I’m not all up in Google’s financial business but I can only presume that since they weren’t paying off that $4.5 Billion bill, they also instead used their money to buy an actual operating company that comes with a whole set of patents that they can now pull out of their back pocket and use.
When I was in the 4th grade with Mrs. Unger, she had us all draw a picture of a nuclear warhead. Each picture represented X number of weapons that the US had. Then, a certain sub group of students was asked to draw a warhead that represented X number weapons that the USSR had. The whole point was to show us that really, after a certain point, it didn’t matter how much fire power each side had because the minute one country or the other fired off, we were all assuredly going to be dead.
Mutually assured destruction, I think is what she called it.