For those who follow patent matters, the spat between Google and Microsoft revolving around whether Exchange ActiveSync infringes a Motorola pager patent dating from August 1995 has moved on to Germany, where an associated case is being heard in Mannheim. Google acquired the patent along with many others when it acquired Motorola Mobility last year.
The opinion of most observers is that Google is throwing good money after bad in pursuing this case. I’m not an impartial bystander as I was an expert witness for Microsoft in the High Court hearing in London last December, a case that Google lost very badly. Latest reports indicate that things do not seem to be going any better for Google in Germany (this post includes the full text of the U.K. judgment). Google lost another case against Microsoft involving 13 different patents in a U.S. court yesterday, so it seems like their lawyers are not having a good run.
Going back to the U.K./German case, my feeling always was that you could not reasonably expect that a patent describing how to synchronize settings and messages across two or more pagers could be applied it to the kind of synchronization that applies in email, specifically that which occurs when Windows Phone 7.5 devices synchronize mailbox contents with Exchange 2010 (for that was the scenario that the trial covered). Google said that their patent covered the method used for email synchronization as well as how Lync and Messenger synchronize user statuses between devices.
Other issues were covered in the trial, such as whether another Motorola invention and patent covering an “electronic wallet” constituted prior art and what could be done with the protocols used by other pager manufacturers to understand whether Motorola’s claims were obvious. I spent about four hours giving evidence with the most challenging (or amusing) question being that posed by Daniel Alexander QC when he probed my relationship with Microsoft in an attempt to undermine my credibility as a witness (perfectly understandable). This extract from the court transcript describes the interchange as Mr Alexander quoted from the foreword to my Exchange 2003 book:
Q: “I want to read a little bit from the foreword to it by Dave Thompson, who is the Vice-President of the Exchange business unit. He says of you “Tony has more history with Exchange than anyone else I know outside Microsoft. He did not let me down. His ten-year love affair with Exchange and his straightforward style meant that I got the complete picture.” Would it be fair to say that you had a ten-year love affair with Exchange?
A. Well, he is factually wrong on that because I could not have had a ten-year love affair at that point. It was probably an eight-year love affair given the dates of the product. Love affair? It is a silly phrase that they used. I would not say…
Q. Do not worry, I am not holding you to it, but it would not be unfair to describe you as a Microsoft Exchange enthusiast?
A. I think if you read my recent articles on the topic, specifically those published in November 2012, there are some people in the Exchange group in Redmond who probably have pictures of me on the wall and are throwing darts at it.
Q. We all fall out with our lovers! (Laughter)
Quite. I’m not so sure about always falling out with our lovers but what’s certain is that Microsoft and Google are well and truly fallen out at this point when it comes to many topics, including email. Recent developments such as Google’s “Winter Cleaning” that dropped ActiveSync support for Gmail (something that only really only affects Windows Phone users) and Microsoft’s new privacy-centric offensive that focuses on how Gmail uses email content to decide what ads to display are only two skirmishes in the campaign.
Personally, I think that if you use a free email service, you have to expect to pay for the facility in some way. The ads that I see in Gmail seem relatively harmless and I don’t keep anything sensitive in Gmail or use it for business purposes. If you don’t want the email system to “use” the deep and wonderful thoughts that you’ve committed in messages for advertising, use a paid-for system. Microsoft must agree because they’d prefer you to use Office 365 rather than Outlook.com. Such is life.
Follow Tony @12Knocksinna