To many people out there, the name Brad Smith might not be too familiar. He's Microsoft's general counsel and most of the time anyone would have come across his name in the past would probably have been in defending the software giant against anti-monopoly cases brought by the US Department of Justice and the European Commission.
But a recent tweet has set the cat among the pigeons in terms of the very public complaint by Google's chief legal officer David Drummond that Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and others are waging an "organised campaign" against Android through "bogus patents". Drummond accused the companies of "banding together" to acquire patents "to make sure Google didn't get them".
His complaint arises from the purchase of Novell's old patents by its rivals for $450m and the acquisition of Nortel's old patents by groups including Microsoft and Apple. Here's an interesting fact though, one of the reasons they ended up paying $4.5bn for the Nortel patents was because Google increased its original bid of $900m for the patents to more than $3bn.
Cue Brad Smith. In a tweet referring to the Novell patents, he states: "Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no."
Now we should be clear that Smith is talking about the Novell patents, not the Nortel ones which Drummond complains were sold for "nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1bn". But the fact is, Microsoft was prepared to bring Google on board for the Novell patent deal. Who knows what might have happened with the Nortel deal if Google had joined forces with Microsoft et al on the Novell patent purchase?
So, that's clear. In the Novell case, Google tried to buy the patents itself after rejecting the opportunity to share them with an alliance of IT companies. When it lost, Google accused the people it wasn't prepared to strike a deal with of trying to stop it from getting the patents. 'Nuff said.
This was first published in August 2011