Best of 2011: Talking the talk
The Android talk, that is. Tech News World asked me a couple of days ago about whether it wasn’t pretty unusual to see parties to litigation — in this case, the Android patent litigation — going so public with their positions. Here’s what I said:
[T]here was some surprise within the industry that the head of very high-profile legal team took to the Internet to openly criticize his opponents.
But keeping arguments confined to the courtroom isn’t always the wisest choice, especially when the issue at stake is one that’s being hotly debated in public — in this case, patents.
“Now more than ever, millions of people are having the discussion with you or without you. So it makes more sense when you’ve got billions of dollars at stake to get your point of view heard so developers and investors don’t lose confidence,” Ron Coleman, partner and head of the intellectual property department at Goetz Fitzpatrick, told the E-Commerce Times.
There are two groups of people that tech companies are speaking to when they take to a public forum, he said.
“These companies are talking to at least two other constituencies whose take on the litigation matters a lot. The first is consumers, who have to decide whether or not they want to buy something that might be illegal in some time,” said Coleman.
Companies want to raise consumer confidence levels enough that if a patent matter comes to litigation, consumers won’t expect that a product will be scrapped altogether, only that the companies involved will eventually come to a settlement, he said.
The other group companies like Google want to make sure are on board are mobile developers.
“At least as important, if not more so, are the developers and innovators in the tech community,” Coleman said. Google doesn’t want to see developers fleeing Android, and it wants phone makers to continue to build large numbers of Android handsets without fear.
There’s a little bit more. The “no comment” approach makes less sense than ever when markets, developers and investors aren’t sitting around waiting for the resolution of interminable, hyper-technical and often blastedly wrong judicial decision-making about potentially paradigm-changing technologies.
In fact, “no comment” makes a lot less sense than a lot of lawyers think it does in other cases, too. From what I can tell, the “no comment” lawyers are typically either lazy, not wanting the trouble of paying proper attention to developing a proper media campaign; don’t know how to to it; or in a rare case, are not instructing clients to lay low but are protecting the unusual situation where the client has its own particular agenda that is better served by discretion.
That doesn’t mean wading into blogs or social media — though it may — and it doesn’t mean responding to every anonymous weenie who wants a comment or attacks you with a factoid.
No, you can’t please all the people all the time. But where public perception is a significant part of a client’s business model, a litigation victory can by mighty empty if everyone’s already gone home by the time the jury comes back with its verdict.
Plus, I love my new Droid X!