Microsoft and Google go tit-for-tat in patent spat

The software giant and its Web rival spar over patent strategy in a running exchange of claims and counter claims using blog posts and Twitter to launch each salvo.

Rather than ignore an attack by Google's legal boss saying that it has conspired against the company in patent wars, Microsoft is ratcheting up the nastiness.

And Google is firing back, turning the discussion of patent strategy into a he said-she said battle of blog posts and tweets.

The software giant's top public relations executive took to Twitter last night to refute claims laid out by Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond that Microsoft is conspiring with Apple and others to keep patents away from the Web giant. Frank X. Shaw released an October e-mail from Google General Counsel Kent Walker to his counterpart at Microsoft, Brad Smith, cordially declining Microsoft's offer to jointly bid on patents from Novell .

In the e-mail, Walker writes, "After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn't be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we're open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future."

That would seem to refute Drummond's claims of "a hostile, organized campaign against Android," Google's mobile operating system, by Microsoft and others. And Shaw was happy to point that out in his tweet.

Microsoft's Frank Shaw Microsoft

"Free advice for David Drummond--next time check with Kent Walker before you blog," Shaw wrote, before adding a smiley face to the message.

Earlier yesterday, Smith took to Twitter as well, to point out Google's inconsistencies. In his tweet, Smith noted that Google rejected Microsoft's offer to bid together on the Novell patents.

"Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no," Smith tweeted.

In an update today to the original Google post, Drummond claimed Microsoft's response was a means to "divert attention by pushing a false 'gotcha!' while failing to address the substance of the issues we raised."

Drummond then argued that if Google had been a part of the winning Novell deal along with Microsoft, it would have put Android at risk from legal attacks due to the group licensing rules.

"A joint acquisition of the Novell patents that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners," Drummond wrote. "Making sure that we would be unable to assert these patents to defend Android--and having us pay for the privilege--must have seemed like an ingenious strategy to them. We didn't fall for it."

An e-mail from Google's general counsel to his counterpart at Microsoft, tweeted by Microsoft PR boss Frank Shaw Microsoft; screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

Drummond later added that the move by the U.S. Department of Justice to make Microsoft-led CPTN Holdings sell the patent collection and make the patents part of the GNU General Public License "reaffirmed" the company's original message that Android had become a target.

That led Microsoft's Shaw to respond again. In a series of rapid fire tweets, Shaw suggested more than a bit of cynicism in Drummond's blog update. And he did it with more than a bit of snark.

Google's David Drummond Google

"Hello again David Drummond," Shaw started his first tweet. "This is going to take a few tweets, so here we go."

Shaw points out that Google did not dispute that it rejected Microsoft's offer to jointly bid on the Novell patents. Shaw claims that is because Google only wanted patents that it "could use to assert against someone else." Presumably, bidding with Microsoft would have included a cross-licensing deal for the acquired patents.

The decision to proceed on its own, Shaw wrote, suggests that Google has no interest in "partnering with others & reducing patent liability across industry."

In this bickering battle, Google is now on the clock.

Updated at 12:55 p.m. PT with Google's response to the Microsoft e-mail tweet.

Updated at 2 p.m. PT with Microsoft's reply to Google's response.

 

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