Google’s Android intellectual property headache looks set to become a migraine

“Last week, a consortium that included Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion and Sony won 6,000 Nortel patents for a cool $4.5 billion,” Larry Dignan reports for ZDNet. “Google had started the bidding with a $900 million stalking horse bid, reportedly got cute with Pi-related offers and lost its best chance to defend Android in the courtroom.”

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“The odd thing here is that Google initially said it was bidding on Nortel’s patents to defend against lawsuits. Apparently, Google thinks it can get better returns on $4.5 billion by paying lawyers to defend Android,” Dignan reports. “So what’s next? Lawsuits. Lots of them… The real battle royale will come as the consortium moves to sue Google over Android. If Oracle vs. Google is notable just wait until Apple sues over Android.”

Dignan writes, “Google wasn’t going to cure all of its Android IP problems with Nortel’s patents, but it would have acquired one nice line of defense. Losing Nortel’s patents—even at the ridiculous $4.5 billion price tag—may come back to haunt Google and Android.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Patent infringement is a crime. Crime is evil.

iPhone caused Google to lose their soul.

Related articles:
Leaked bids show how Apple-led ‘Rockstar’ beat Google to Nortel patents – July 2, 2011
Apple consortium wins $4.5 billion Nortel patent trove auction; Google, Intel lose bidding battle – July 1, 2011
Intel gets antitrust approval to bid on Nortel patents – June 24, 2011
Apple gets U.S. antitrust approval to bid for Nortel patent trove – June 23, 2011
Apple, Intel among bidders for Nortel patent trove – June 17, 2011
Nortel delays patent auction one week citing significant interest – June 16, 2011
RIM looks to outbid Apple, Google, and Nokia for Nortel’s patent treasure trove – April 18, 2011
Google bids $900 million for 6,000 Nortel telecom patents in quest to boost patent portfolio – April 4, 2011
Apple reportedly bidding for Nortel patent portfolio – December 13, 2010

23 Comments

  1. So I don’t pretend to understand how this works, but I read an article that Google could likely avoid a lot of Android IP issues with the purchase of RIM – and more importantly QNX. This where I don’t remember the explanaion (nor did I understand it while reading it) but it said that Google could easily transition Android linux kernel over to the microkernel used by QNX.

    1. They probably could transition over to the QNX kernel, but the bigger question is what does google gain doing this?

      There is no court win indicating that Linux actually imposes on anyone’s patents, if there were, torvalds would simply work around the patent and release another version of the kernel.

      MS has been scaring smaller rivals into paying ‘licenses’ because frankly MS has realized they can’t destroy Linux on a level playing field so they are resorting to FUD tactics. Kind of a ‘if you can’t beat em’, threaten to sue them’ situation. I can’t wait for the day it call comes back to haunt MS.

      Buying RIM would give them RIM’s patents, but I think RIM has a ways to fall before they are even on the market.

      1. I think “observer” means that buying RIM might be a more cost-effective option for accessing these patents than by out-bidding the consortium.

        Yes RIM’s market capitalization is still a lot more than the winning bid for the patents, but it presumably also has additional value to Google (or whomever).

      2. I guess that was my long-winded way of saying that buying RIM gets both an OS migration strategy (away from Oracle’s lawsuits), and protection from the Nortel/Apple/consortium patent portfolio. All for the low, low price of $15 billion.

        Still not a get out of jail free card for Apple’s touch/interaction patents.

        1. I see what you are saying. The issue with Oracle isn’t Android specifically, its the Davlik Java runtime used for the majority of Android apps.

          They can get away from Oracle (if need be) without dumping android, it would just be a rough transition possibly!

    1. Honestly, if you take a good look at the world the way it is, you’d be hard-pressed not to conclude that this “reap what you sow” nonsense is strictly wishful thinking. It looks to me like the liars and thieves are running the whole world. But if it makes you feel better to imagine that the wicked get their “just reward” in Hell, then knock yourself out. I see very little justice in this world. I see big fish eating little fish. Watch your back.

      1. Honestly, God, being eternal and extratemporal, takes the long view, and the meting of His justice transcends man’s sense of “timely” reckoning. Seek and you shall find.

  2. For all those wondering why Apple hasn’t sued the pants off Google yet for Android, you’re starting to see Apple’s strategy.

    Apple has patented the heck out of iOS. It also has now purchased additional patents, and watched as Google produced and sold/distributed Android without much patent support.

    Now, instead of filing trade dress, copyright, or other “you copied our stuff” lawsuits, in which Apple could be open to anti-trust claims if it successfully vanquished Android in this manner, Apple is going for the jugular – that Android violates Apple’s patents.

    This is a significantly different strategy, because Google will have one of two choices in the end: Pay Apple (and others in the consortium) to license the patents, or stop distributing Android. Either way, Apple will force Google to pay through the nose for distributing Android, but Apple won’t be open to anti-trust claims because Google can choose to pay licensing fees.

    Apple wins either way. Google basically pays any money it makes (probably more than its profits unless it starts charging for Android) to Apple, and Apple has a competitor on the market to guard against anti-trust lawsuits. If Google EOL’s Android, then Apple can always defend an anti-trust lawsuit by stating the truth: Google chose to exit the marketplace instead of paying for licenses for patents it was knowingly violating.

    Brilliant.

    1. 2nd.
      I was saying the same thing to my android loving sister. Which is funny, my niece is buying an iPhone after having the same android my sister has 😉

    2. Spot on. I think Apple’s patents on multi-touch should be enough to take google down, but I understand why they would want a more complete portfolio. Plus, the 4G patents in this portfolio will help them reduce the fees they pay nokia and others going forward….

  3. I believe that Apple had a pretty strong case before acquiring the Nortel patent portfolio as a member of the winning consortium. But it will apparently expand Apple’s reach/level of protection.

    It will be interesting to learn the details of how this consortium works. Looks like Apple and Microsoft cannot escape each other.

  4. Google didn’t need to bid $4.5B. They needed to put together a consortium that could out bid Apple’s consortium. Apple’s rumored contribution is $2B for the key LTE patents. Well, that should have been Google’s ante as well, and then find the partners to buy the rest. I mean, Intel is a big company, but Apple had a group of partners, not just one partner.

  5. Don’t be evil. I mean, I guess that’s what you were thinking when your lawyers advised you back in 2007, that you’d probably get sued.

    “But what if we give the whole thing away for free? We can’t be sued, right?”

    “Right. But your hardware partners can. They may not like that.”

    “Whatever.”

  6. Keep in mind kids that Android is Open Source. It is NOT actually Google’s property. Google just sponsors the project. Therefore, any lawsuit would not be addressed directly to Google. I personally have never comprehended how anyone can successfully sue an Open Source project. Good luck with that!

    1. Except it isn’t.
      Don’t forget, Google is NOT releasing the source code for Honeycomb.
      I can call myself an NBA All-Star, but doesn’t mean you can expect to see my 5’7″ pudgy carcass on the hardwood.

      1. According to Open Source licensing, if Google use Honeycomb as a finished project, they are REQUIRED to provide the resulting source code into the Android Open Source project for others to use. It’s based on Android, therefore it must be contributed back INTO Android.

        I haven’t followed the project nearly enough to know what Google is doing with Honeycomb at the moment, but that’s the way the system is ‘supposed’ to work.

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