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

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.

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TOPICS: Google, Legal
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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

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15 comments
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  • Microsoft objected to the terms that voided their license

    Microsoft objected to the sales terms that voided their license to use the Nortel patents. I'm curious how they could void existing contracts through a sale and if it was an oversight not to have that covered in the contract.
    georgeou
    • Probably because

      @georgeou<br><br>Nortel is bankrupt and hence contracts are unenforceable. Nortel is not the one selling the patents. It is done by the bankruptcy trustee. MS can just line up with all the other unsecured creditors to try to collect what they feel the contract was worth. All the assets are being sold to pay off all the liabilities (all contractual obligations) which would include intellectual property deals.<br><br>You cannot enforce any contract once the other party is in bankruptcy. You just line up and hope to collect. The deal probably was reciprocal, and Nortel is unable to sell the MS licenses to anyone. Therefore, MS has lost its Nortel licenses and is unlikely to collect anything as compensation.
      Economister
      • reciprocity...

        @Economister <br>Bingo - I can bet MS would not want to allow any cross-licensing to be sold with the portfolio. Plus, it would be difficult to do, especially if the portfolio is broken up.
        tbuccelli
  • Google gets ok to buy Nortel's patent arsenal

    If google do buy this patents, the circus is going to get better now.
    czorrilla
  • RE: Google gets ok to buy Nortel's patent arsenal; Countersuit fiesta on deck?

    go Google go!!!! Show the world that the best things in life are indeed free!! I Love Google!!!!
    madhav.surendra@...
    • Patents are the opposite of free, and Google will use those patents

      to make money from others who used their patents. Buying the patents is not just for protection from others; it's also to make money from others.

      Your glee is premature.

      BTW, what has Google created, where the intents was not to make money from it? Even what appears to be free, is not free at all.
      adornoe
      • RE: Google gets ok to buy Nortel's patent arsenal; Countersuit fiesta on deck?

        @adornoe@...

        And that is wrong how? Last I checked, Google was a business, not a collective of free-wheeling hippies.

        Google basically gives you a lot of extremely useful services and instead of asking for cash directly from you they use the information you willingly give them to target ads to you for things that you might possibly be interested in.

        Anyway you slice it, that's a damn good deal.
        RayGerena
      • RayGerena: You are helping to make my point, because,

        I was making the same point you tried to attack me with.<br><br>There is absolutely nothing wrong with making money, and Google is just doing what all the other companies with patents would do. <br><br>So, why not read again my post, with a better attempt at understanding what I really was trying to say. My response to madhav.surendra is exactly what you are trying to say. Google is just getting into the same game that everybody else is playing. Google never was about "free", and the biggest thing lacking in their repertoire for making money, was the collection of patents, and by gaining patents, they're re-iterating the fact that, they're in business to make money, and not to give anything away for free, even if some people perceive some things they do as "open source" or free or just from the goodness of their heart. <br><br>So, go ahead and re-read my post, but hopefully, you'll understand the context of my post a little bit better this time.
        adornoe
  • RE: Google gets ok to buy Nortel's patent arsenal; Countersuit fiesta on deck?

    Google has not yet won the auction. It merely has permission from Justice.
    hoffberg
    • Exactly right, and if usage rights can be broken, then Microsoft

      and others will enter the bidding to protect themselves with certainty.
      adornoe
  • RE: Google gets ok to buy Nortel's patent arsenal; Countersuit fiesta on deck?

    Ironic isn't it. The idea of patents was to encourage inventors to put the effort into bringing beneficial inventions to society, by giving the inventor sole rights to trade it - rights which could be licensed.<br>Now that the effort to bring a (software) invention to market is essentially zero, patents are being bought up used for the benefit of patent warriors. Society eventually pays the lawyer fees in the form of higher prices for the products embodying them.<br>A plague on you all!
    PassingWind
  • RE: Google gets ok to buy Nortel's patent arsenal; Countersuit fiesta on deck?

    bottomline, i am a normal guy who works for a company. I don't need to advertise stuff. How Google makes money is not important to me as long as they give me those fabulous products for which i don't pay a dime. But I do want Google to make money so that they can continue to give me those fabulous products. I would not want other companies threatening Google and stopping them from doing these wonderful things. About gathering data from me, and about me... well, if Google is going to help me make useful decisions why not? it is not like it is influencing me, it is assisting me in making informed decisions. I like it that way.
    madhav.surendra@...
  • Strong offence is the best defense

    buying patents will help google defend itself from other patent holders, whose patents google has been infringing
    tejasmodi@...
    • RE: Google gets ok to buy Nortel's patent arsenal; Countersuit fiesta on deck?

      @tejasmodi@... <br>Alleged to have infringed on. It has not been prove. Just because someone claims or thinks something does not make it so. For an example of this look at the SCO lawsuits. <br><br>Microsoft claims Linux infringes but refuses to disclose anything making it harder in the future for them to defend those patents. Clearly if they had a real case they would file, since patents must be actively defended. Not to mention their damages will be minor because they knew of the alleged infringements and did nothing about it, which shows either there are no patents or they are not being harmed by it. I suspect there either are no patents or they are crap patents that they know will be invalided and they do not want to risk that given what the Open Source community has done in free research in other cases.

      Most of the time these corporations file a lawsuit. The defense files a counter-claim and then they make a deal because an actual patent lawsuit is very expensive and could result in patents being revoked/declared invalid. No company wants to risk loosing patents.
      tim.w.jung@...
  • RE: Google gets ok to buy Nortel's patent arsenal; Countersuit fiesta on deck?

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