FOSS Patents: Google’s patent portfolio too weak to protect Android

Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac“About a week ago, IFI CLAIMS Patent Services published its new ranking of the 50 companies awarded the most US patents in 2010. Microsoft is still the number three patentee with 3,094 new patents, Apple is a rising star with 563 new patents (+94%, a greater gain over the previous year than anyone else on the list), but Google isn’t even on that list,” Florian Mueller reports for FOSS Patents. “I ran a couple of queries on the USPTO’s patent database. Last year, Google was granted 282 US patents and — at the time of posting this — owns 576 in total. While Google has ramped up its patenting activity in recent years, the gap in portfolio strength between the Android developer and its mobile operating system competitors actually appears to be widening.”

Mueller reports, “There’s a popular belief that all major high tech companies own tons of patents, and many consider Google fairly innovative. But its patent portfolio is dwarved by those of its competitors… The operating system that is the target of more infringement action than any other is Google’s Android.”

“No matter how influential Google may be on the World Wide Web, its patents apparently didn’t deter Oracle from suing. I’m sure Oracle took a close look at Google’s portfolio and determined that there was no risk of a serious counterstrike, or of any at all,” Mueller reports. “If Google could countersue, it might already have a favorable settlement with Oracle in its hands. Since it can’t, it will either have to fend off all seven patents asserted by Oracle (plus any others that Oracle could assert in a second suit), in each case by taking the patent down or proving that there’s no infringement, or it will have to come up with some theory that it was entitled to a license of some sort. Otherwise, Oracle will prevail and the vast majority of Android applications would presumably have to be rewritten. So chances are this will cost Google (and possibly the Android ecosystem at large) dearly.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: And the device assemblers who got totally blindsided by Apple’s iPhone and desperately turned to Google’s “free” Android in a sheer panic will be the ones left holding the bag. HP and even Microsoft and maybe even RIM (we’ll need to see more from them first), all of whom have their own mobile OSes in various stages of readiness, may be in stronger position to sweep up Apple’s table scraps than most people seem to realize. Smart mobile device assemblers will diversify and wean themselves from relying solely on Android in order to minimize their risk. Those that don’t are – *ahem* – courting disaster.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Erwin” for the heads up.]


  1. “Microsoft is still the number three patentee with 3,094 new patents, Apple is a rising star with 563”
    The big difference is how many of those pattens became actualy a product.
    Microsoft pattens dreams or copies of other’s products (like they recently publicity Magic mouse wannabe).

    Mora than 50% of apple pattens became or are working in a product we have today (like the multitouch in the iphone and the trackpads).

    So an interesting list would be the top 50 companies with working patented products.

  2. @Bubbles

    It may be true that they generate the vast majority, if not all, of their revenue through advertising but to ignore the technical aspects of Google is ridiculously naive. Without that technological aspect there never would have been Google advertising. Google is as much a technology company as Microsoft or Apple.

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