To be filed under “Do as I say, not as I do.” Google’s public policy director said today that software patents are failing to promote innovation, and that patent lawsuits are hurting consumers. The comment comes three days after Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility sued Apple, demanding an import ban on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Google’s director of public policy Pablo Chavez said, “One thing that we are very seriously taking a look at is the question of software patents, and whether in fact the patent system as it currently exists is the right system to incent innovation and really promote consumer-friendly policies.”
Chavez also said, “We think that these patent wars are not helpful to consumers… They’re not helpful to the marketplace. They’re not helpful to innovation.” Chavez was speaking at a Technology Policy Institute conference in Mountain View, California.
Few observers of the patent wars over the last few years would argue with Chavez, save quite a few lawyers who owe their summer homes and speedboats to patent lawsuits. However, Google is going to have a hard time convincing anyone it means what it says now that it’s Motorola’s daddy. The main reason Google bought Motorola was for its patents. Reportedly to protect Android from legal attacks. But now that they have the patents, what the heck, might as well sue some people.
To be fair, Chavez is not in charge of Motorola’s legal strategies, and there is no reason to believe he’s not sincere in his beliefs. But Google’s public statements provide an definite contrast to its competitors, who seem to enjoy the aggressor role. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously declared he would go “thermonuclear” on competitor Android. Meanwhile Microsoft issues press releases trumpeting each time it forces another company to pay licensing fees for its patents.
No matter what Google, or its people say about the patent wars, it’s certain there is no end in sight. There are a lot of speedboats and vacation homes to be purchased, so the lawyers are sitting on the bench, patent lawsuits in hand, waiting for their chance to swing away.