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Google patent lawyer says system is broken

Tim Porter tell the San Francisco Chronicle that the current system is stifling innovation and needs repair.

As the force behind Android--a mobile operating system that now claims 43 percent of the smartphone OS market--Google is at the center of the mobile patents battle.

And that means it has a target on its back: companies such as Oracle, Apple, and Microsoft claim the free operating system infringes on their patents. Oracle has sued Google, while Microsoft and Apple have sued and threatened litigation against companies that market Android-based products. Apple has successfully kept the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 off retailer shelves in Australia, while Microsoft has signed half the world's original design manufacturers to patent protection deals.

David Drummond, Google's top legal officer, reacted in April by posting a scathing indictment of adversaries Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle for pursuing "bogus" patent claims that may serve to drive up the costs of phones using Android.

In a fascinating interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Google patent counsel Tim Porter argues that the patent system is broken and that the legal posturing is only wasting time and resources.

When asked about Microsoft's patent protection deals, Porter said this was a common revenue strategy for the software giant.

"This is a tactic that Microsoft has used in the past, with Linux, for example," Porter said. "When their products stop succeeding in the marketplace, when they get marginalized, as is happening now with Android, they use the large patent portfolio they've built up to get revenue from the success of other companies' products."

While not addressing the question of whether software should be patentable, he called the current system "broken" and said that for many years, patents were written in a vague and overly broad way. "They're being used to hinder innovation or skim revenue off the top of a successful product," he said.

Porter went on to say that it stands behind its partners and defended Google's recent attempts to buy patent portfolios from companies such as Nortel as an effort "to increase our ability to protect ourselves when people assert patents against us or our partners."