The wireless industry patent wars are entering a strange new phase where intellectual property is being handed around like ammunition and the holding period really doesn't matter. It's all about launching the patent grenades.
In this new phase, Google is happy to be a patent arms dealer to its allies, who are all being sued by Apple.
The big patent flap of the day---actually there are more like three including HTC vs. Apple, Oracle vs. Google and Apple vs. Samsung---revolves around HTC suing Apple with nine patents obtained by Google, according to Bloomberg. HTC told AllThingsD it paid Google for the patents, but the sum isn't disclosed. HTC could have paid a dollar or a few million. My bet is on the former.
You see where this is going. When Google closes the Motorola Mobility deal it will get 17,000 patents. That arsenal is likely to be enough for Google to open a patent candy store. It will be handing out patents like Gummy Bears.
It's pretty easy to see Google's patent store sales pitch. It would go something like this:
Apple got you down? Apple trying to sue your face off? Don't worry says Google. For a small fee---just to keep it on the up and up---we'll rent you a patent to countersue. Here's your magic patent.
What's odd about this is that the companies building their patent stockpiles are all acquiring them through some other company. These patents often cross through many hands. The innovation argument is a bit questionable. Should there be a holding period before you can sue someone over a patent? Can you really have a patent for a few hours and start lobbing lawsuits?
Like all things patent, this rent-a-patent strategy is a bit strange, but not totally unexpected. The good news is that all these patent lawsuits and counterstrikes may just equate to a detente at some point. The Google axis and Apple will each have enough patents to assure mutual destruction. Nilay Patel raises the largest question in the patent wars: Why doesn't Google sue Apple? We may get an answer to that question once the Motorola Mobility deal closes.
- By the numbers: Google, Motorola Mobility deal values hardware at 'next to nothing'
- Google-Motorola Mobility would create interesting enterprise portfolio
- Will Microsoft pursue HTC or Nokia in reaction to Google-Motorola?
- At Motorola, a history of embracing, then rejecting, consumer spotlight
- Is Microsoft’s next move buying Nokia or RIM? Nah…
- Google’s Motorola acquisition: Is there a role for third party mobile operating systems?
- Google’s $12.5 billion Motorola Mobility bet: 6 reasons why it makes sense