Look away now: there’s another patent storm coming Google’s way

mobile patents trendsThe summer of 2011 was a crazy time in the world of mobile patents. In fact, by far the craziest ever as Google Trends would tell you. It seemed like every major software company in the world had Android in their cross hair, with Apple, Microsoft and Oracle leading the charge.

There was one particular case that stands out more than the others: the Nortel patent acquisition.

The Nortel patents is what got Google to really chase patent reforms. Having had their $900 million bid selected as the “stalking-horse bid”, Kent Walker, a Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Google penned a blog reiterating the company’s stance on the need for patent reform, and why they were bidding for the patent portfolio.

Today, Nortel selected our bid as the “stalking-horse bid,” which is the starting point against which others will bid prior to the auction. If successful, we hope this portfolio will not only create a disincentive for others to sue Google, but also help us, our partners and the open source community—which is integrally involved in projects like Android and Chrome—continue to innovate.

A little under three months later, Google surprisingly lost the auction. How did that happen? As MG Siegler put it in this column on TechCrunch, it was essentially like a scene out of the James Bond movie Casino Royale. Google was outbidding everyone, with Apple left as the only company left competing against them. When Apple saw that they were going to lose, they decided to back a consortium that had just given up: Rockstar Bidco. With Apple’s support, the consortium offered $4.5 billion.

Google, who at the last moment had been joined by Intel, weren’t ready to go over $4.4 billion. Instead they saw Apple walk away as winners. Who were the companies part of Rockstar Bidco? Microsoft (as you would expect), RIM, EMC, Ericsson and, this is the toughest to take, Sony. Not only was the average cost to each of the winners ($750 million) less than Google’s stalking-horse bid, there was an Open Handset Alliance member on the opposing side.

The loss set in motion even stronger patent-reform lobbying by Google, as well as the eventual Motorola acquisition in August of that year. For a while, it seemed like the entire fiasco had been buried. Unfortunately, this past week, Rockstar Bidco fired the first bullets in what can aptly be described as a “World War” between mobile companies: the consortium mentioned above, against the listed “infringers”: Google, Samsung, ASUStek, Pantech, HTC, LG, Huawei and ZTE.

It looks like we are going to be hearing about this for a very, very long time.


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TAGS: patents

  • Damon Nevils

    This is Sparta!! No, really its the electronics industry…. War every day to get to the top.

    I hope that our Federal government steps in now!! I know this is perfectly legal, now, but hopefully our Government will step in to put an end to these tactics so that companies are forced to innovate.

    • Damon Nevils

      Yes, I “upped myself”, I like me.

    • JMcGee

      Just want to point out that you’re appealing for salvation to the same group who explicitly and intentionally created the problem in the first place.

      The absurd patent and copyright laws which allow this were designed to protect big corporations from facing competition, and they’re working just great.

      • Damon Nevils

        Agree,but eventually someone must stepin and admit a mistake was made.

      • WickedToby741

        They were actually created for the exact opposite reason, but they’ve been extorted. Patents were designed to protect the little guy from getting ripped off by giant corporations. Obviously these aren’t little guys and they aren’t protecting anything but complacent companies’ bottom lines.

        Think of patents as a hammer. They were invented to help humble men and women build things. Instead they’re being used as a weapon to bludgeon competitors to death.

        • JMcGee

          That’s a nice idea, but the history of the origin and growth of patent laws indicates otherwise. They’ve certainly been sold to the general population under those pretenses while mega-corporations encourage their ever-wider scope by supporting legislation and donating to politicians.

          • Ameretat

            Nokia = microsoft = patentrolls

        • ari_free

          “Patents were designed to protect the little guy from getting ripped off by giant corporations. ”

          haha yeah that’s what they always say haha

    • http://aidan.info.tm/ Zack Casey

      Last time the Government stepped in they voted for Apple.

    • ari_free

      The Federal govt will always step in to ensure the power of the federal govt.


      yeah they need to stop google from copying apples google can come up with its own ideas (it cant)

    • anywherehome

      so please don’t support such a rotten company like Apple and Microsoft, don’t give them a penny and the world becomes better

      + eBook price fixing robbery by Apple

      + Android manufacturers’ blackmailing by Microsoft

      I will never give rotten Microsoft and rotten Apple a penny, join me!

      we hate them because we have a lot of reasonable reasons

  • supremekizzle

    Y u do dis Rockstar bidco?

  • scoter man1

    And this is why a lot of Android users will never buy Apple. (To the trolls from iSource that will probably visit this)

    • Marle

      Why are you only hating on apple?? i actually think microsoft is worse than apple, overcharging every damn thing.

      • louched1

        In this particular situation Apple is most certainly worse than Microsoft for main two reasons. Apple is the majority monetary supporter of this patent troll and Apple has spoken out against patent trolls to the US government. Microsoft is also engaging in patent trolling, which is wrong, but at least they don’t speak out against patent trolling while they’re doing it.

        • Marle

          i guess you’re right, apple did seem to be more eager to get the patent’s and since they did end up joining forces with Rockstar bidco, it does seem like they’re mainly doing it to attack google.

      • np6s4x

        considering the recent news of tablets running both windows and android, the blood can’t be nearly as bad. hell will probably freeze over before android and ios are dual bootable on a stock device

        • Marle

          that’s because apple want’s to be in complete control over their products, to assure the customers a quality product, that’s one of apple’s core values.
          whereas windows is selling licenses to their software to anyone, and Android is open source.

          but i would still argue that apple and google is way more alike than windows and google.

      • scoter man1

        Mainly because I am a desktop enthusiast and the only OS worth running on a desktop (for games) is windows. Although they may do retarded things, its basically like being able to speak English. You have to.


      Because google infringes on patents and fandroids worship them like a cult?

  • CensoredByU

    Let them come.. Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, Nortel, Let them all Come. Google will pimp slamp them so hard they wont know what hit them.

    • anywherehome

      hope so, but the fascistic USA gov canceled iToys sales ban in the USA but did not cancel Samsung ban…..you can not trust in free market in the fascistic USA any more

  • steveb944

    Time to boycott Sony

  • WickedToby741

    Hey Google, I hear BlackBerry is for sale as well as the WebOS patents. Sounds like it’s time to bulk up.

    • Jroc869, Nexus-Life

      Haha wouldn’t that be ironic.

    • hellhoundwp

      Yeah if Google bought BlackBerry, then they would be given a pass for this whole lawsuit, sense BB is part of the consortium.

  • Crimsonshadow774

    Time to add Sony to my list of companies not to buy a mobile products from.

    • Canon User

      No matter, they don’t want to sell to the US anyway. :(

      • Crimsonshadow774

        True that. I was really contemplating their new smart watch as well but this kinda encourages my decision to wait on Google.

        • Canon User

          Personally, I would wait to see if Sony says/does anything here. Maybe they’ll submarine the thing. :)

    • Len Waugh

      I stopped buying sony after what they did to screw over geohot. Not regreting my choice at all.

      • NinoBr0wn

        Oh please don’t even go there.

      • uniquename72

        I haven’t bought any Sony products since they rootkitted people’s computers with Sony music CDs. And I never will.

  • AndroidProfit

    I just bought a Sony sound bar. I feel soooo dirty.

  • Noah Pierson

    Sony was probably just doing this so they wouldn’t be on the list of infringers. It would be pretty stupid of them to attack Google when every Sony handset has to be “Google certified” just to run Android (see Open Handset Alliance rules).

    • Dean Politis

      Sony can’t be sued since they own the patents along with the other companies in the Axis of Evil (Rockstar).

      • Noah Pierson

        That’s what I’m saying……

    • Raveesh Bhalla

      I’ve got nothing against them for looking to protect themselves, but remember, Google was the favorite to win throughout. If they really wanted the patents, they could have tied up with Google instead, particularly late on when they saw the battle lines redrawn with Apple joining Rockstar. One can’t help wonder if Google would have won had Sony jumped ship. Of course, there’s the part about whether it was too late for Sony to even do that legally.

    • frankie

      sony probably didnt want any part in this but has little say on the matter, now microsoft has samsung, asus etc as hardware manufacturers for laptops, so why harm your partners? now apple…… nuff said

  • Fel Pe

    That doesn’t surprise me, Sony and Ericsson had a lot of things in common, plus as a japonese company they are very scared with the South Korean and Chinese ones. This is war, I’m just glad that Samsung and Google are big enough to face the Apple dark squad.

  • androidscales

    MS largest betch of patents and Apple who have stopped innovating relies on these bs patent wars

    • Ameretat


      Nokia = microsoft = patentrolls

      Nokia = the biggest patenttroll

  • frankie

    im just curious why lenovo and other smaller android OEM’s were not included in the suit? or this shell of a company only allowed to cherrypick which company they think infringes on their patents?

    • Raveesh Bhalla

      Do Lenovo sell Android devices in the US? As far as I know, patents are restricted to regions, and a company can only be infringing upon them if they’re selling products that allegedly violate these patents in the region.

      It might also be a case of licensing deals or Rockstar simply not having enough proof against the other companies.

      • frankie

        yes i checked lenovo’s website they sell in the US but i dont know if its different if things are bought online… how about toshiba?.. something is not right here…

        found this site: http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/smartphones/

        • frankie

          also to add, i searched for asus smartphones USA using google and it says they are planning to release phones in the states by 2014…

          • Raveesh Bhalla

            I wouldn’t look too much into the other companies, most likely it’s a case of simply not having enough damages to claim to really care.

            Asus is mentioned by the way (ASUStek)

  • fran farrell

    In short Apple chose to conspire with the anti-Google crowd. Because ‘licensing’ is done by lawyers, there can be no access to the explicit conspiratorial information exchanges. Moreover, ‘shared’ patent info is like Army Doctrine; lays out the anti-Google-strategy for all to see. No need for explicit conspiracy after that. Each member (of the conspiracy) can contribute to the oligopoly by doing what its best at.

  • fran farrell

    Time to litigate the real meaning of patent-sharing ala what Microsoft and Apple have done since the return of Steve Jobs to Apple.

  • Alexander H

    HTC already is paying Apple and M$ per device for patent stuff….by including them…they’ve been clear that no amount of royalty payments will be enough

    • JosephLagalla

      i wonder if they will be able to make a countersue due to the terms of the agreement with Apple