Is Google prepared to defend Android?
Google has long argued that the patent system in the US is broken. But, it doesn't look like that is changing, and in the meantime competitors are gunning for the market leader, Android. Google's sub-1000 patent portfolio is feeble in comparison and losing the battle for Nortel's patents was a big setback...especially considering the winners were the very same people who have Google in their crosshairs.
Currently, the only company going after Google directly is Oracle. They have sued Google, alleging patent infringement on seven of their patents, mainly in the use of the Dalvik virtual machine that is at the core of the Android operating system. That has been going on since 2010, but Oracle has not let up, recently pushing to have Google's Larry Page deposed. Google has responded to Oracle saying that not only are the patents invalid and unenforceable, but even if they were, Google hasn’t actually infringed them.
But, this war is being fought on many fronts. Microsoft has been going after Android manufacturers and has signed many of them to licensing deals. Their tactic has been to threaten a lawsuit without actually filing one, then convince them that fighting Microsoft is unwinnable and expensive, regardless of the claim's merit. Incidentally, this is why Google thinks the system is broken.
But, Google has been losing all of these battles. And now, Google has lost another one. Apple filed a complaint, suggesting that HTC violated patents by using core features of the Android OS, and HTC lost. This could have a major impact on all Android handset makers and on Google itself.
And, here's the bottom line. Google needs to start fighting on behalf of Android. Acquire some patents, hire some patent experts (which they are doing) and partner with the manufacturers to protect the open-source system that is Android. Because, if they don't, the tide may soon turn. Manufacturers may end up choosing to pay for licensed operating systems like Windows Phone in order to have the cost certainty that would include.
Google: it may not be right, and everyone might be on your side, but it doesn't matter. It's time to fight.