Google said "no" to joining Microsoft, Apple, in Novell bid? [Updated]

Google said

Microsoft General Council, Brad Smith tweeted out a response today to Google's open letter on an alleged anti-Android patent conspiracy, basically calling shenanigans on their whole patent conspiracy act:

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

Which makes very little sense, given how angry Google reportedly was about not winning the bidding (regardless of the silly way they went about it), and their interest in having the DoJ investigate Microsoft, Apple, et. al on anti-competiveness grounds.

Jon Fingas at Electronista hypothesizes that:

His remarks if accurate imply that the bidding group, which named itself Rockstar BidCo and also included companies like RIM and Sony, is primarily intended as a defensive mechanism to prevent lawsuits from patent trolls and other, usually smaller firms from suing anyone involved in the coalition. Many have presumed that the group was united with the aim of further suing Google and slowing down the adoption of Android.

So either Smith is completely out to lunch, or some people in Mountain View have some explaining to do...

UPDATE: Frank X. Shaw, from Microsoft Communications has posted a copy of the email to Brad Smith of Microsoft from Kent Walker, Google's General Counsel. Along with this sharply worded tweet:

Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog. :)

Google refuses Microsoft Nortel bid offer

[@BradSmi via Electronista, @xfshaw via WPCentral]

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 17 comments. Add yours.

(Copy of) Dev says:

Presumably, a co-bidding with Microsoft would come with terms preventing use of the Nortel patents to counter/fight the fees some Android makers are paying Microsoft. Google's manufacturing partners would not be happy with that, at all. If Google's end goal is to prevent any "bogus" patents from encumbering Android, it would make no sense to outlay a large sum of cash essentially to legitimize Microsoft's patents.

Dev says:

It doesn't call into question Google's routine, because Fingas' core assumption is so blindlingly wrong.
The bidding group's for the Nortel patents was not to use them to sue Google, but to prevent Google from using them defensively against the group's pending litigation and licensing deals.
Google's patent problems aren't some imagined little guy in the future - they are Apple and Microsoft, right now. Losing the Nortel patents is a blow to Google's defense, but joining the Apple/Microsoft bid would just as absolutely remove them from Google's defensive arsenal, only by joining Google would also pay a billion or so for the privilege.
Google, in joining the Apple/MS bid would effectively be subsidizing the slitting of their own throats. Fingas is either a shallow thinker or being deliberately obtuse not to see and report that inevitable outcome.

Tidusffx9 says:

These patents are about Norvell. So your well explained argument as to why google wouldn't join a pool for the Nortel patents is moot.

Dev says:

The argument applies, just with numbers in the hundreds of millions instead of billions.
In both cases, Google's desire for these patents is to use as a defense against Apple and Microsoft. Joining any patent pool, be it Novell (not Norvel) or Nortel, with either of those companies permanently removes those patents from Google's defensive posture.
In the Nortel case, why on Earth would Google spend a billion dollars to help Apple and Microsoft remove defenses from potential future Android litigation?
In the Novell case, why on Earth would Google spend hundreds of millions of dollars essentially to strengthen Microsoft's $15 licensing posture against Android manufacturer HTC?

(Copy of) Dev says:

Eliminate a possible threat from patents that have been sitting idle for a decade, at a cost of a billion dollars AND helping your rivals weaken your own defensive posture? That does not sound like a remotely reasonable choice.

(Copy of) Dev says:

And I never said they were. But when you are in a pool, you cannot use the patents in that pool in actions against partners in that pool. Joining that pool would subsidize the permanent removal of these patents from Google's possible defenses. They lost them anyways -- but why throw a billion dollars down the drain while losing?
This is a practical matter, not a principled one. It would be an unsound move, from a practical standpoint, for Google to assist their rivals in taking out their own defenses.

Tazh89 says:

Keep reading something new every week ..last heard that only Intel were willing to partner with Google and now who knows which of these companies are telling the truth?

Ciudad says:

Great work guys! I would love the alitiby to email a link to a story from Google Reader using the iPhone's mail app. i.Bloglines has it... and it works well.

Tazh89 says:

Although the email shows an offer to join....that was back i October 2010, the real question i would like to know is were Google offered again but this time to join the consortium at the auction?

timkedojeh says:

I'm cross-posting this from the comment thread at Android Central, since it seems like there's some confusion over what actually happened.
The responses from Brad Smith and Frank Shaw are referring to the Novell patents, which CPTN (a consortium made up of Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle, among others) bought at $450 million earlier this year. The email makes it seem, but doesn't specifically mention by name either CPTN or Novell, that Microsoft looked to allow Google an 'in' into CPTN when looking at Novell's patents.
The patents that were bought by Rockstar (Microsoft, RIM, Apple et al.) for $4.5 billion were originally owned by Nortel; right now, there's been no indication that Google was invited to join this consortium at all.

sting7k says:

Some one get Google their binky, they seem cranky.

Dev says:

You cannot use them against a partner in the pool, so, to use them as a defense against Apple or MS, correct - Google had no choice.

Dev says:

Again, if Google needed the patents, they need them against Microsoft and Apple. Joining them in a coalition would have rendered the patents useless for that purpose, so spending money to neuter their own defense would have been foolishness.

Dev says:

Google's intent in the 700mhz auction was not to drive up the price, but to ensure the bidding was high enough for the federal government to kick in open uses clauses on the winner. ( Ars Link ) For that, end users should be thankful, even if we should be angry at Google's questionable arrangements with Verizon on other issues.
On the Nortel auction, I partially agree with you. I think Google wanted to win at the outset, but, once Apple, Microsoft, and the others joined in a consortium, Google knew they simply could not win. At that point, Google bidded up to their maximum tolerance only partially with an eye towards winning, but more with an eye towards making their rivals pay as dear a price as possible. Standard practice in any auction.

Sasi says:

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