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Samsung, Google, Microsoft play politics

Being adept at the lobbying game can be just as effective as making better products or pressing patent lawsuits

Tech companies are playing a power grab and increasingly turning to lobbyists for a competitive edge.

Several developments this week show that being adept at politics can be just as effective in gaining ground on rivals as making better products or pressing patent lawsuits.

South Korea-based Samsung, which has been waging a patent war with Apple around the globe, is playing politics the tried and true American way by lobbying Congress.

The company ratcheted up its year-over-year lobbying efforts by six-fold, according to Bloomberg.

In 2012, it spent $900,000 on lobbyists, compared to $150,000 in 2011. They pushed legislators on issues that included intellectual-property infringement and telecommunications infrastructure.

The big bump in lobbying dollars comes after Samsung lost a highly publicized intellectual property lawsuit with Apple.

That lawsuit is now winding its way through the appeals process.

Asked by Bloomberg about the increased outlay for lobbying, Samsung issued a statement saying the move was "a prudent step as part of day-to-day business operations, our growing presence outside of our headquarters country, and our commitment to transparency."

Samsung compadre Google reportedly adopted a different political tack against its rival Microsoft.

After the King of Windows paid a $731 million fine Wednesday for violating the terms of an agreement it made with the European Commission, the Financial Times (registration required) reported Google and Opera contributed to the EC's action.

That agreement required Microsoft to inform European Windows users that alternatives to its web browser, Internet Explorer, are available.

From the time Microsoft cut the deal with the European Union in 2009 to February 2011, the information screen appeared to European users like clockwork.

Then Windows 7 Service Pack 1 made its debut and the screen disappeared.

More than a year later, the EU noticed the information screen was missing and launched an enforcement action against Microsoft, wich said the omission of the screen was an accident and fixed the problem.

According to the Financial Times, EU action on the omission stemmed from an "informal" tip-off from Google and Opera, which both make browsers that compete with Internet Explorer.

Meanwhile, Microsoft tried its hand at manipulating the political system to gain an upper hand on Google.

The company is supporting a proposed law in Massachusetts squarely aimed at Google Docs, which competes with Microsoft's Office suite -- a cash cow that's becoming more important to the company every day as the PC market continues to decline.

Ostensibly designed to protect the privacy of public school students, the bill could have an adverse impact on Google's productivity apps like Gmail, the Wall Street Journal reported .

The proposed law would bar companies that provide schools with a cloud computing service from using information gleaned from school children for advertising or other commercial purposes.

The legislation is in line with a campaign Microsoft has been waging against Google called " Scroogled." It contends that Google sifts through the content in its users' email messages to serve up targeted ads to them.

While Google does that, the process is automated so no human eyes view the messages. Nevertheless, the process could run afoul of the Massachusetts bill should it become law.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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