Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

Summary: How dominant can Google's Android operating system become? Dominant enough for almost an entire industry of rivals to play a $4.5 billion game of patent keep away. Now it's time to rev up the lawsuits.

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How dominant can Google's Android operating system become? Dominant enough for almost an entire industry of rivals to play a $4.5 billion game of patent keep away. Now it's time to rev up the lawsuits.

Last week, a consortium that included Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion and Sony won 6,000 Nortel patents for a cool $4.5 billion. Google had started the bidding with a $900 million stalking horse bid, reportedly got cute with Pi-related offers and lost its best chance to defend Android in the courtroom. Nortel's patents are one swell swan song for the bankrupt telecom equipment provider that has already been split up and sold in chunks.

Few parties involved in the consortium are talking, but Android must be a real pain for Apple, Microsoft and RIM to all team up against Google. RIM chipped in $770 million and Ericsson added another $340 million to the winning patent bid. The remaining splits are unknown, but Robert X Cringely reported that Apple put up $2 billion for Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G patents with Microsoft and Sony added $1 billion. Microsoft is staying mum about its role.

The odd thing here is that Google initially said it was bidding on Nortel's patents to defend against lawsuits. Apparently, Google thinks it can get better returns on $4.5 billion by paying lawyers to defend Android.

So what's next? Lawsuits. Lots of them.

As previously noted, Citigroup analyst Walter Pritchard reckons that Google has little intellectual property to defend Android. He said:

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…

Cringely said that it's likely that Google will file lawsuits over the $4.5 billion winning bid with an antitrust and restraint of trade complaint. The search giant will juggle any upcoming suit with its ongoing battle with Oracle over Android.

But the real battle royale will come as the consortium moves to sue Google over Android. If Oracle vs. Google is notable just wait until Apple sues over Android. For its part, Microsoft is already busy collecting royalties over Android. Florian Mueller recaps Microsoft's licensing deals with Android device makers.

Google wasn't going to cure all of its Android IP problems with Nortel's patents, but it would have acquired one nice line of defense. Losing Nortel's patents---even at the ridiculous $4.5 billion price tag---may come back to haunt Google and Android.

Topics: Hardware, Android, Google, Legal, Mobile OS, Mobility, Smartphones

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58 comments
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  • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

    Everybody loves Android.. it makes all happy.. even rivals.
    hims2smart
    • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

      @hims2smart but then again nobody likes a thief
      hubivedder
      • People like extortionists...

        @hubivedder
        ...even less than they like thieves.
        John L. Ries
      • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

        @John L. Reis
        >>It seems to me that the monopolistic practices the Sherman Antitrust act prohibits would be a lot harder to accomplish if governments didn't charter corporations, or if patents (also granted by governments) were a lot harder to get.

        Then Google shouldn't have been allowed to buy YouTube! because both were competing on the same. Here Google also clearly crushed competition to its Google Video.
        Ram U
      • Rama.NET: I don't see your point

        "Then Google shouldn't have been allowed to buy YouTube! because both were competing on the same. Here Google also clearly crushed competition to its Google Video. "<br><br>Maybe not, but how many people had even heard of Google Video at the time? I think it's hard to argue that buying an already existing dominant player constitutes restraint of trade. Maybe the DOJ thought so as well. And just how high would the barrier against launching a You Tube competitor be when there is no way to lock people into contributing to only one service? Google could bias its search engine in favor of its own service, but they'd lose credibility and it it's a lot easier to switch search engines than it is to switch operating systems.<br><br>But that doesn't have anything to with what you apparently responded to (people like extortionists even less than they like thieves), or what you quoted (monopolistic practices would be a lot less successful if governments didn't grant corporate charters or patents).
        John L. Ries
      • But it all started

        @hubivedder It all started with developers believing they were using open source code (GNU General Public License). It seems to have come down to just what code was released under GNU License and what was not. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and many of them differ.
        Sagax-
    • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

      @hims2smart
      the DOJ should start an antitrust and restraint of trade lawsuit against the greedy cartel led by Apple and M$! Android should be set free by the people!
      Linux Geek
      • View of the wonder of socialism.

        @Linux Geek

        Remove all profit and incentive to develop new and exciting software and simply give it away. Allow the market to stagnate and any growth be tied to intrusive advertising.

        Sounds like paradise to me.
        Bruizer
      • Because, of course, using someone else's IP without

        paying for it (ahem, Google) is selfless altruism.
        fr_gough
      • Bruzier: One man's &quot;socialism&quot;...

        ...is, in this case, another man's "law and order".<br><br>It seems to me that the monopolistic practices the Sherman Antitrust act prohibits would be a lot harder to accomplish if governments didn't charter corporations, or if patents (also granted by governments) were a lot harder to get.<br><br>If you're going to argue against government involvement in economic matters, argue against all of it. Calling antitrust "socialism", but insinuating that "intellectual property" is sacred is totally inconsistent.
        John L. Ries
      • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

        @Linux Geek

        You keep referring to the people. You 're not asking us to believe you have a friend or friends?
        tonymcs@...
    • OK everyone! I just filed for a patent on the steering wheel.

      @hims2smart
      Pay up!
      ;-)
      kd5auq
  • educate me on patents

    We recently heard that Apple paid Kodak an x amount of dollars for violating the latter's patents.
    Here is what I don't get. Apple bought the camera components from some supplier. Doesn't some of the money per component go back to Kodak, as royalties for its intellectual property? If not, shouldn't Kodak be suing the supplier and not Apple?
    Same thing here. If HTC makes an Android based phone using LTE tech, that now belongs to the consortium, then the hardware maker will pay for the components, won't they? Then we should also assume that part of that price will go back to the companies in the consortium, in the form of royalties.
    Can someone explain what is the problem? Any lawyers out there?
    MG537-23482538203179240121698430309828
    • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

      @MG537
      In the big leagues, the first defense against a suit is to file a brief with the court arguing that the plaintiff does not have standing, e.g., the plaintiff has chosen the wrong jurisdiction, the plaintiff does not own the property where the trespass allegedly occurred, the plaintiff was not damaged, the defendant was acting under a license, and so on.

      As to sub-licensing, some of this may be statutory and some may be contractual, the latter meaning broader licenses or more rights are exchanged for more money.

      I think the conclusion to be drawn is that in this case Apple did not receive a sub-license from the camera manufacturers, or the infringement occurred not via the use of a camera, but via the interface between the camera and the processor.

      Kodak also prevailed against Sun in a patent case it brought back in the late 90s. Sun was not making devices with cameras and the complaint was regarding java. Now, it might have been over a different set of patents.

      Not a lawyer, etc.
      DannyO_0x98
    • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

      @MG537 Very simple sue where the money is. Simple as that. Otherwise, what would happen. You need some widget for your product that you know would violate some patent some where some how. Thru some backdoor covert means, nothing that could be tracked back to you. have someplace in China make up a billion of these widgets for you, then promptly go out of business, liquidate all assets. No assets to sue.
      You have your widget, the lawyers have no one to sue.
      csumbler
  • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

    Of course they did this out of fear and they more than likely way over paid for them!

    Honestly though, I think Ice Cream Sandwich will have measures that eliminat many of the law suits. In the long run they might even create some hybrid system that moves away from their JVM and more to the standard to shut Oracle up. Either way, I bet they do get some patents of their own.
    slickjim
    • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

      @Peter Perry
      I agree here. I was watching a short video showing some of the features of ICS and all I have to say is wow. I think Google will simply change their code (just like Microsoft did) so that it complies and there you have it.

      Speaking of the 4.5 billion dollar price tag, well what is Oracle asking for in ways of a fine against Google? 2.5 billion I think, well that would save them 2 billion dollars right there :)
      brad1000
  • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

    Spend these 4.5B in Washington to fix the patent system?
    kirovs@...
  • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

    Even without Lawsuits android will crumble in a few years. Fragmentation, lousy UI, poor battery, malware, uncontrolled multitasking where developers screwup etc etc is enough to destroy it

    Android rise was due to the vaccum in smart phone space from 2007 to 2011 partly thanks to Microsoft.

    WP7 is reaching maturity and nokia and many OEMs joing WP7, its a matter of time that android will be relegated to fourth of fifth place.

    Even if goole is going to loose only 10 percent of its 40 or more lawsuits, it may not survive, no matter they release Ice cream or cheese cake or curry.
    owlnet
    • RE: Google's Android IP headache may become a migraine

      @owlnet
      First, nothing is perfect. It's about value for cost. Second, Android becomes marginalized when it no longer helps phone manufacturers make a profit. Thirdly, just because the wave inevitably breaks up on a beach doesn't mean one can't get a good ride on a surfboard.
      DannyO_0x98