Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

Summary: Some people see Google buying Motorola Mobility as Google moving into the hardware business. I think it's entirely about trying to win, or at least drawing, the mobile patent wars.

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I can't prove it, because I didn't write about it, but I've thought for a long time now that Google buying Motorola Mobility made a lot of sense. It wasn't my idea though. I give full credit to billionaire investor Carl Icahn. In July, Icahn said that Motorola should shop around its patent portfolio, in particular Motorola Mobility, to wireless technology companies such as Google. His proposal made sense to me, and, what's important, it made sense to Google as well.

As Icahn said at the time, with 17,000 approved patents and another 7,500 in the pipeline, Motorola Mobility "has one of the strongest and most respected patent portfolios in the industry." Sure, Google can build its own Android phones now, but so what? The real value here for Google is in those patents.

Also: By the numbers: Google, Motorola Mobility deal values hardware at 'next to nothing'

Motorola knew Google needed them as well. When Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha said in the company's latest earnings call said that they would be aggressively monetizing its intellectual property (IP) by going after "new entrants to mobility industry with big revenue streams," many assumed Jha was talking about going after other Android players such as HTC and Samsung. It now seems what he was really doing was trying to drive up the price Google would pay for Motorola Mobility.

Why would Google do this? Haven't you been watching what's happening with Android? Although Android's popularity has been growing by leaps and bounds, it's been under near constant IP attack by Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle.

Sure, there are other reasons besides patents for Google to make this deal, but I don't they amount to a hill of beans compared to Google's need to put an end to the IP lawsuit siege on Android. Google, since it hasn't had a significant patent portfolio, to counterattack its IP enemies has been largely helpless against its opponents.

You see software patents are merely ammunition in business wars. In 2011, patent lawsuits are largely used to extort money and kill off innovation and competition. As Stephan Brunner, a programmer told NPR recently, I have to say that every single patent is nothing but crap."

In a more business-like fashion, Chris Sacca, the venture capitalist, said to NPR that "We're at a point in the state of intellectual property where existing patents probably cover every behavior that's happening on the Internet or our mobile phones today, The average Silicon Valley start-up or even medium sized company, no matter how truly innovative they are, I have no doubt that aspects of what they're doing violate patents right now. And that's what's fundamentally broken about this system right now."

Exactly so. Every IP lawyer I've spoken with, and I know dozens, agrees that the patent system is fundamentally broken.

But no matter how much business, legal and developer experts may agree that the current IP legal landscape is insane--as can be shown by the recent German court decision that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 design violated Apple's iPad design because, well, it looked like a tablet--it's the IP legal system we're stuck with for now.

Since that's the case, Google had to load its guns. As Kevin Burden, vice president of mobile networks, for the research house ABI Research, put it "All its [Google Android] licensees are now feeling their legal positions have just been reloaded."

As Larry Page, Google's CEO himself put it, "Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies."

Thus, Google will be able to use the patents, which includes database patents, it recently bought from IBM against Oracle and the Motorola Mobility patents against Apple, Microsoft, and other mobile patent enemies. The goal of all this? Google will get the best result anyone can get from a patent war: A draw with it competitors that will force Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle to compete in the marketplace with quality products instead of in the courtroom with lousy software patents.

Related patents:

Google and Motorola Mobility:

CNET:

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Enterprise Software, Google, Legal, Security, Wi-Fi

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28 comments
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  • If moto's patents arent enough to protect moto what makes you think they'll

    be enough to protect google or any other android vendor? This is good for icahn and moto shareholders who should all be selling NOW. It's bad for moto, they are now trapped in android without the option of expanding into WP. They were already starting to see the downside to this. It's bad for moto employees who will be second class citizens. Theres a reason google plans to run them as a separate subsidiary, they have NO DESIRE to extend the standard employee perks/benies to the moto crew. It's good and bad for HTC, Sansung, etc. They clearly become second class android citizens but they see moto disappear from the massive WP coming the next few years. It's great for MS. All the other oems become much more interested in MS for both tablets and phones. Great for apple too as it narrows android while posing no threat, meaning that google having both hw/sw like apple wont produce apple like devices as both google and moto have both demonstrated for their entire history that they are incompetent on the ux design/usability front as far as both device and service software go. With Nokia on the verge of trouncing moto worldwide this is great timing for moto shareholders to bail with some gains but terrible timing for google to have to gag it down. This is like what would have happened to MS re yahoo, would have been great for icahn and the yahoo shareholders but turned out to suck for MS. Very lucky for MS it fell apart. This is a fiasco for google. Sounds like even Page sees that but that the pending complete android meltdown is forcing his hand...
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

      @Johnny Vegas +1.
      Your Non Advocate
      • Main Apple's patents for mobile capacitive multi-touch GUI/gestures

        @facebook@... ... can not be "negated" by buying <b>any</b> number of other patents.<br><br>So this purchase of patents by Google can only be used for handling damages and for bargaining once Android will be really in the pinch. Though this would harldy help to deal with Apple, since they have <b>truly exclusive patents</b>, which are nothing like cameras-enabled patents for Microsoft table, which deals with big scale, non-mobile multi-touch.

        Common set of communications-related patents, bought by Google, is not exclusive. Two other, lesser sets of patents are already bought by Google's competitor's, including Apple, and the forth is Nokia.
        DDERSSS
      • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

        @DeRSSS what are you talking about? They have enough bargaining chips to negative MS and Oracle... Apple's patents are typically not violated by Android or its partners.

        Look at it this way, Apple searched its portfolio and found 20 patents to go after HTC with and when the dust settled the ITC found 2 patents violated by HTC...

        One of those two patents can be avoided while the other is likely to get tossed in court.
        slickjim
    • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

      @Johnny Vegas
      Agree with everything except 'the massive WP' thing.

      Really? 'Massive'?

      Really??
      Theseus
      • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

        @Theseus +1
        I think that MS it's trying create some sort of zoom zoom, around WP, that it's quite far to happen, if it happen one day. I like MS on PC, though on mobile, they are doing the same thing as politicians do, just empty promises. They should keep quiet, make their home work and then when everything working well, start talking again, because this game that they are doing (after kim and WP7, + updates), what in fact they are doing is burning what left of consumer confidence in the company for nothing. I believe that MS will come soon with something good, though after so many money for the drain, and just words... it's now just wait and see if they will get there.
        villacak
  • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

    ZDNet needs more articles about Google and Motorola because the 12 they have so far isn't enough.
    LoverockDavidson
    • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

      @LoverockDavidson Ha Ha! That's awesome man!!!
      slickjim
    • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

      @LoverockDavidson @Peter Perry
      Right, there's nothing for an MS troll to do!
      Try PC magazine, or if you want a real challeenge, one of the linux publications (sully your hands for the greater good of M$).
      radleym
  • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

    wowo $12 Billion only hahahahhah.
    google in 2020 will buy all companies in the world.
    http://www.technews5.com
    jackxp7
  • Oh, for the good old days

    when a CEO addressed his (or her) staff telling them "you are our greatest asset".

    Google has become Count Dracula and Motorola Mobility's employees are husks. This is like taking on a wife (or husband) purely for their money. Neither is a marriage made in Heaven. And, in this case, Motorola Mobility is to become Google's 1st and senior wife. Google's lesser wives will include Samsung, HTC, LG, etc. assuming that it can keep them.

    Android is a mess. Miscreants get their malware-laden apps into the Android Market with impunity. Verizon, an OHA partner, plans to open their own *curated* App Store and has made Microsoft's Bing the default search engine on their Android-based smartphones in exchange for cash. Amazon, a strong competitor to Google, plans to use Android for its own tablets and will also have their own App Store.

    Is it worth $12.5 billion U.S. (and add however much Google paid IBM to license its patents) for Google to save Android?

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2011/02/08/googles-android-a-billion-dollar-ad-business-in-2012/

    Has Android become personal for Larry Page? This transaction has shades of Jerry Yang refusing to accept Microsoft's $45 billion U.S. offer for Yahoo!.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

      @Rabid Howler Monkey Appropriate screen name given your post!
      radleym
  • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

    What I see here is the typical Google haters posters with their usual crap. Guys get a life, you really are boring by now.
    czorrilla
    • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

      @czorrilla
      Why don't you first.
      owlnet
      • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

        @owlnet
        Wow, isn't that mature of you...
        dunners6
  • There's More To This Acquisition Than the Obvious

    This is an extremely narrow-minded view of the acquisition. I won't argue that patent acquisition is part of the decision but I think it's a benefit, not the driving reason (and to focus on it is a bit inflammatory given the current state of mobile patent litigation right now). This acquisition of Motorola Mobility (not just handsets) provides Google with two things that their primary rival Apple has. First is a relationship with the carriers. In order for Google to get closer to the exploding mobile data usage (and more behavior information that will greatly enhance ad CPMs) they need to be close to the carriers. Having a handset business with the size of Motorola's gets them that (Apple already has a relationship). Second, it gets them into the living room more effectively than they have been able to (i.e., GoogleTV) where a war is brewing over the "family OS:" what platform will families unite upon for mobile, TV, and media (and PC really). Whether you like the application or not, iTunes is an awesome platform for uniting multiple screens. There is a lot more to this acquisition than what appears on the surface. Of course, I could be completely wrong as well but only time will tell.

    http://blog.jasonthibeault.com/index.php/2011/08/15/why-google-motorola/

    J
    jtnoel
  • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

    "Thus, Google will be able to use the patents, which includes database patents, it recently bought from IBM against Oracle and the Motorola Mobility patents against Apple, Microsoft, and other mobile patent enemies. The goal of all this? Google will get the best result anyone can get from a patent war: A draw with it competitors that will force Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle to compete in the marketplace with quality products instead of in the courtroom with lousy software patents."

    Utter bollocks statement, SJVN!!!

    Apple, MS and Oracle doesn't need those patents. Google needs them to cover their a** from litigation.

    Google is a pirate ship. Let it pay hard for its past loot. 12 billion is not enough, lets see how much its going to pay to Oracle and MS to settle its Java and Linux infringements.

    FYI, andorid will be dead soon, only motorolla will be using them by 2012. MS, APPLE, RIM, WEBOS and BADA will be the games in town.
    owlnet
    • Agreed. Many have publicly stated that WP7 and iOS

      @owlnet <br>are much better operating systems compared to Android.<br><br>I believe what the author should have said was that Microsoft and Apple are forcing Google to compete in the marketplace with quality products instead of in the courtroom because of Google's use of other's patented software, instead of innovating.<br><br>:|
      Tim Cook
    • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

      @owlnet
      "Android will be dead soon"

      Hahaha, whatever you are smoking, I want some. Hate to break it to you but Android is going nowhere. IOS's growth is slowing. Even the mighty, overhyped iPad 2 is slowly losing ground. WP7 is struggling. WEBOS is all but dead and deservedly so - it's crap (yes I had a pre). BADA is trying its best and RIM is holding on for dear life. Android is the new King in town and the girly OS IOS is the queen for now until Android uses her up and tosses her aside.
      darreno1450
    • RE: Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

      @owlnet

      Smoke crack much??
      thesuperstitions