Is he being blackmailed? Has his child been kidnapped? Did he merely sell out?
FORTUNE — The questions in the subhead are not mine. They were posted Thursday on Investor Village’s AAPL Sanity board. But questions along those lines are being asked by more than a few long-time readers of Florian Mueller’s FOSS Patents blog, including executives at Apple AAPL headquarters.
Mueller, for those unfamiliar with his work, may be the world’s most-quoted expert on smartphone patents. In the four years since Steve Jobs launched his “thermonuclear” war on Google’s GOOG Android, I’ve quoted him in 80 different stories. In the main, he’s been supportive of Apple’s intellectual property claims and critical of countersuits based on so-called standards essentials patents, like the ones Samsung asserted in the first Apple v. Samsung trial.
But something changed between the 2012 trial — the one that resulted in a jury awarding Apple damages of roughly $1 billion — and the trial that began this week.
It started with a March 11 post that opened with an acknowledgment that in the past Mueller has “sometimes, maybe even quite often, but not always agreed with Apple,” but quickly shifted gears:
The issue that set him off was Apple’s demand, revealed in a January pretrial hearing, that Samsung pay $40 per patent for the five patents at issue in Apple v. Samsung II.
If that weren’t enough to raise the blood pressure of Apple partisans, it was followed four days later with a positive recommendation for Yukari Kane’s
— a book that nearly every other reviewer panned.
Then, on Wednesday, Mueller issued two more rapid-fire posts:
- 10 European judges found Apple had not invented slide-to-unlock (star patent at Samsung trial)
- In 49 months of holy war, Apple has not proved that it owns any feature other than rubber-banding
It was those last posts that got the folks at AAPL Sanity talking about payola.
I asked Mueller about this charge in a March 18 e-mail: “I’ve noticed a change in the tone of your last two pieces, and I’m not the only one. Is there something I should know — or you should disclose — about your client list?”
I followed up Thursday, after the two most recent posts. “If something is going to come out eventually,” I wrote, “I hope you would do me the courtesy of giving me first crack at the story.”
This time he mentioned that he’s developing an app:
I have some sympathy for Mueller. When he was writing positively about Apple he was regularly excoriated by Google partisans who claimed that his coverage was colored by the fact that he has done paid consulting work for Microsoft MSFT and Oracle ORCL , two firms that have locked horns with Google in the past.
Now he’s getting it from an even more rabid fan base. You can hear his frustration in his latest post — Apple does not ‘own’ multitouch smartphones and tablets any more than Samsung ‘owns’ phablets — in which he addresses the charges of payola directly.
There you have it. He’s on the record now.