As reported on Reuters and Techcrunch, Microsoft is claiming that the sale of bankrupt Nortel’s 6,000 patents to Google (or any other successful bidder) is unfair under the current sale terms that allow the buyer to not carry current licenses to the patents.
Microsoft is understandably concerned, as they currently hold a “perpetual, royalty-free” license to all patents (which means that if the buyer doesn’t get to re-license with existing license holders, then they won’t get any more money from Microsoft on these patents), but what I’m ranting about is not their legitimate concern, but their attempt to color this as “unfair” – quips Techcrunch:
Microsoft says that’s unfair. And while they don’t specifically mention Google, it seems pretty clear who they’re thinking about when they write that a termination of existing licensing agreements “would result in considerable disruption in the development and enhancement of various existing technologies and give the prospective purchaser an unfair competitive advantage”.
This may be unfair, but Microsoft has done this exact same thing in the past, including the very near past where immediately after buying Skype, and just a few days after Microsoft promised that Skype will continue to be offered on non-Microsoft platforms, the “Skype for Asterisk” product was terminated disallowing Digium to sell any more Skype integration module for their successful (and open source) VoIP solution(1).
Obviously this is a move perpetrated to allow Microsoft’s competing VoIP product (Lync) an unfair competitive advantage by offering features that Digium can no longer offer – not because of technical issues but because Microsoft will not allow it.
Taking that into account, Microsoft claiming the sale of this patents to Google is unfair is just the pot calling the kettle black.
- Microsoft wants guarantees if Google buys Nortel patents (zdnet.com)
- Apple gets antitrust OK for Nortel patents bid (news.cnet.com)
- Google’s $900 mln Nortel patent bid OK’d: Report (marketwatch.com)
- I know that technically they did not stop supporting the module – just not allowing any new sales, but they also put a deadline to stop supporting the Skype-Asterisk integration module: it will not work past July 2013. Cutting this any sooner would have netted Microsoft/Skype a serious law suite so obviously they did the worst they could get away with [↩]