Google's Schmidt hits out at mobile patent war

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt on Thursday criticised raging patent disputes in the global mobile industry, warning that they stifled innovation and reduced consumer choice.

"Google stands for innovation as opposed to patent wars... The last thing we want to see are innovation and particular products being stopped," he said at an event in Seoul to launch Google's new Nexus 7 tablet PC.

Global smartphone giants Samsung Electronics and Apple are currently locked in a long-running patent battle over design and technology in 10 nations including the United States and Japan.

Schmidt declined to comment on any specific case, but was due to meet Samsung's mobile chief JK Shin later on Thursday. The South Korean firm uses Google's Android platform on its smartphones and tablets.

Last month, a California jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages for illegally copying iPhone and iPad features for its Galaxy S smartphones.

Apple, which has filed patent infringement actions on earlier versions of the Galaxy S series, added the newest Galaxy S III to the list in a fresh complaint filed on September 1.

Schmidt pointed to estimates that there are some 200,000 mobile patents with "complicated" and "overlapping" technical specifications.

"I think one of the worst things that has happened in the last few years is the belief that somehow, because there are so many patents... that one vendor could stop the sale of another vendor's devices," Schmidt said.

This "literally prevents choice, prevents innovation. And I think that's a very bad outcome", he added.

Google's launch of the Nexus 7 tablet in South Korea is aimed at expanding its share of a lucrative market led by Apple's iPad with devices that use the Internet search firm's own software.

The seven-inch tablet, powered by the latest generation of Android software called "Jelly Bean", is being made for Google by Taiwan-based Asus and weighs about as much as a paperback book.

The device -- already launched in the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain and Japan -- is priced at 299,000 won ($268).

It will be available for pre-order in South Korea this week before hitting shelves in mid-October.

The number of mobile gadgets powered by Android has now reached 500 million globally, with 1.3 million new Android devices being activated each day, said Schmidt, who described South Korea as a "leading" market.

"In 2011, Korea had 30 percent smartphone penetration... Right now in 2012, 60 percent of Koreans have smartphones. This gives you the sense of how fast this is happening," he told reporters.

South Korea is being ranked second in the world in the number of apps downloaded at the Google Play app store, Google's Android team head Hugo Barra said, calling the growth "really phenomenal".

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