Google gets ok to buy Nortel's patent arsenal; Countersuit fiesta on deck?

Summary:Google has reportedly received the go-ahead to buy the patent portfolio of Nortel Networks. The move could give Google some much needed intellectual property to defend Android better.

Google has reportedly received the go-ahead to buy the patent portfolio of Nortel Networks. The move could give Google some much needed intellectual property to defend Android better.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Justice gave Google the ok to buy Nortel's patents. Google previously said that it was bidding $900 million for the patents, but Apple, Research in Motion, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia all filed objections.

Nortel has 6,000 patents covering Wi-Fi, social networking and LTE 4G networks. The portfolio is being sold off in bankruptcy proceedings. Google would still need the highest bid to purchase Nortel's patents.

Google has said it needs that patent treasure trove to defend itself from lawsuits. Google said in April:

One of a company’s best defenses against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services. Google is a relatively young company, and although we have a growing number of patents, many of our competitors have larger portfolios given their longer histories.

Now Google can countersue others.

Indeed, Google is already defending Android on multiple fronts. The biggest front is Oracle, which wants heavy damages from Google for alleged patent infringement on Java.

Citi analyst Walter Pritchard summed up the importance of these patents to Google in a research note:

Google appears to have very little IP to defend itself with. The general protocol when a defendant is faced with an IP infringement accusation is to “retaliate” with infringement counterclaims and ultimately force some sort of cross licensing or other détente instead of entering a prolonged and costly legal proceeding that may result in a costly or disruptive settlement. Without significant IP of its own, Google is not likely to be able to deploy this defense.

Topics: Google, Legal

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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