Google legal officer David Drummond agrees that the U.S. patent system is going overboard right now with all of its lawsuits, but he'll be the first to admit it's a complicated situation.
Google, and – in extension – all of its related Android manufacturers, are seemingly constantly dealing with major legal issues with Apple and Microsoft. Despite the constant threats and countersuits between the companies, Mr. Drummond does not believe that any of them want to keep dealing with it all. "It doesn't take much digging to find statements from Apple, Microsoft, all lamenting the fact that we have this patent litigation. These are not companies that say we're all about patents and wake up in the morning wanting to think about patents."
The problem, he says, lies in the fact that it's too easy to get patents on software in the United States. "There are places in the world where you can't get a software patent, or at least it's harder, like Europe. We think that's probably the better way to go."
Unfortunately for the current state of software of innovation, the U.S. patent system has very specific reasons for its rules and regulations. Making a big shift now could seriously threaten pharmaceutical and biotech industries, both of which depend heavily on patent protection in order to provide vastly profitable solutions.
"I think what we need to do is move past the one-size-fits-all and start thinking about software patents more specifically," Drummond said. "If you talk about software patents, I don't think those other industries will feel as threatened."
Drummond drew comparisons between mobile computing court battles of today and the lawsuits surrounding chipmakers in the late 80s and early 90s, but he drew a fine line between physical innovation on hardware and intellectual innovation in software.
"I would argue semiconductors fit the model for [patent] protection more than software does," he said. "We're talking about algorithms here. In some ways, it's math. I think you'd want to be more careful about giving monopoly protection than you might for some hardware ideas. I don't think we should just say 'Well, this is the cycle we always go through.'"
And if Google is saying that software patents shouldn't be as strict, you know that's a big deal. After all, Google has had a stranglehold on search for years now with their mysterious algorithms.