Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

Summary: With the Google announcement that it intends to buy Motorola Mobility, the Microsoft vs. Motorola patent battle just took a new turn.

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The Microsoft vs. Motorola patent case just took a new turn on August 15, with Google's announcement that it plans to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

Microsoft and Motorola have been warring over patents for the past several months. Microsoft sued Motorola on October 1, 2010, over alleged infringement of Motorola’s Android smartphones on Microsoft’s patents. On November 9, Microsoft sued Motorola again over wireless and video coding patents that are used by the Xbox and smartphones. In the latter case, Microsoft claimed that Motorola is charging excessive royalties for its patents.

Motorola retaliated with its own countersuit on November 10, claiming infringement of 16 of its patents by Microsoft’s PC and server software, Windows Mobile and Xbox products.

Google execs cited patents as a key reason it is seeking to purchase Motorola.

"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," said CEO Larry Page in a new blog post.

I've asked Microsoft for comment on the effect of Google's intended purchase on its patent cases against Motorola, but have not yet received a statement.

"It takes time to close such major transactions and I believe all litigation involving Motorola will continue, likely including the disputes with Microsoft as well as Apple and others," said FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller.

Mueller also said he believed that Google's acquisition of Motorola could negatively affect Android handset makers outside the patent realm, as those companies "would have to compete head-to-head with the supplier of their operating software."

Google execs recently blogged claimed Apple, Microsoft and other tech vendors which outbid Google for a Nortel patent war chest are behaving in an anti-competitive way.

Update 1: Motorola split into two companies, Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions, earlier this year. (Thanks to my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott for the pointer.) Motorola Mobility is the company Google is seeking to acquire and the one which has been embroiled in the Microsoft patent cases.

Update 2: You've got to wonder whether Motorola was shopping itself around, especially given Motorola executives' recent statements that they'd be willing to team with Microsoft if they could get a Nokia-like deal. And, indeed, that appears to be the case, with Om Malik posting that Microsoft supposedly kicked the Motorola Mobility tires recently. Malik said Microsoft wasn't in discussions to buy the company, but did inquire about buying Motorola's patents.

Update 3: Things could get interesting on the tablet front with this acquisition, as @artfuldodga noted on Twitter. Will we see a Motorola Chrome OS tablet? Or some other hybrid?

Topics: Microsoft, Banking, Google, Legal, Mobility

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

    I do not think those manufacturers have anything to worry about. Look to Google dispose of Motorola mobility manufacturers and design units fairly quickly to a Chinese competitor.
    Knowles2
    • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

      @Knowles2 If this were to happen, they could likely drop it to HTC for half the investment and then HTC and Android become synonymous.

      Either way, this is going to eliminate the $15 tax that Android Vendors have to pay MS and Googles next acquisition will likely address the Apple portion...

      All of this is going to continue to open the doors for Android to thoroughly dominate the Mobile Market for Years to Come!
      slickjim
      • Actually ...

        @Peter Perry ... this doesn't necessarily eliminate anything.

        MS obviously felt its patents were stronger than MMI's or it wouldn't have sued and sought licensing fees. Nothing about that has changed yet. A) MMI is still part of Moto until a sale is approved by necessary government agencies; B) MMI's patent portfolio may actually lose a few patents that remain with Moto Solutions, so its case may actually be slightly weaker (though I doubt Google would be trying to purchase MMI if the patent portfolio wasn't a treasure trove of wireless patents).

        With the sale pending, MMI probably won't agree to MS' licensing demands. And Google is probably even less likely to ever agree. So, MS' fight is likely to wind up in court after all ... sooner rather than later. Then we'll see what MS' patents are and how strong they are. If they're as strong as MS seems to believe they are, Google/MMI would still lose, which means all of Google's Android partners will be guilty of infringing, too. So, if anything, this may just hasten judgment day on Android.

        The situation is the same with Apple: it supposedly has very fundamental patents that would be next to impossible to work around, which puts it in the driver's seat still. And Apple has nothing to gain by licensing its technology for use in Android -- it certainly doesn't need the money. If Apple can prevent Android from being installed on phone and tablet devices, then all the Android partners will be up the creek without an OS -- they'd have no choice but to either modify Android so that it doesn't infringe or to use an alternate OS ... or exit the markets, altogether, which is unlikely. (From what I hear, WebOS and RIM's OS also infringe the Apple patents, but haven't come under fire yet, due to their smaller size.)

        But Google's announcement doesn't change anything yet. It only raises more questions. And perhaps hasten the timeline a bit on things.
        jscott69
      • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

        @jscott69 Actually I'd say that ALL of the following vendors have 'fundamental' patents that could not easily be worked around: Nokia, Motorola/Google (on wireless phones); Apple (on touchscreens); Microsoft (smartphone OS); Palm/HP (smartphone OS).

        It's not quite M.A.D., as Team Nokia-Microsoft and Apple have the upper hand -- but with Google + Motorola it's now highly unpredictable how the legal all-in wrestling rumble will end.
        rbradbury@...
      • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

        @Peter Perry MMI may not have been as willing to fight the long legal battle, especially with their earnings down, but google has a much bigger stake in this and their legal team is willing to fight longer. I suspect Samsung, HTC, and the others Microsoft is collecting android royalties from, were probably not willing to enter into the long fight either, and just gave in. What happens in the next months (or years) will be very interesting.
        normcf
  • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

    Next controlling how Android is changed and used. Will android end up on one brand of phone in the end?
    imsimsj
    • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

      @imsimsj Nope, not at all!
      slickjim
      • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

        @Peter Perry I hope not.
        imsimsj
    • Nahh...

      @imsimsj : Since Google is not really a hardware company... it's almost certain that they will retain management and let Android spin by itself...

      Not sure how HTC will take this and if this is going to prompt Microsoft to buy Nokia... sooner than later...
      cosuna
  • Google Apps Marquee Customer now owned by Google

    Motorola was one of Google Apps marquee customers, used as a poster child of enterprise adoption of Google Apps. It makes you wonder how far back these acquisition talks go, considering Motorola's troubled past. "If you use our Google Apps, we will buy you so you do not have to pawn the silverware."
    Your Non Advocate
  • More loyal partners for WP7

    Is this a April Fools Joke in August? Looks like the Nokia and Microsoft combination is indeed a serious threat. I hope this will gain more loyalty for Microsoft WP7 amongst manufacturers such as HTC and Samsung etc. I am sure the Android partners are p****d with this decision to buy Motorola though. You can't be both our OS provider and competitor.
    adacosta38
    • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

      @adacosta38 Why would they do that? Android just got a whole lot more Muscle behind it!
      slickjim
    • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

      @adacosta38

      Your assumptions aren't facts, but keep on hating Google all you want...
      DonRupertBitByte
    • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

      @adacosta38

      WP7 is as big a failure as the Kin. Why would any manufacturer move from the leading OS to one with 1% and stagnating market share?

      The handset manufacturers seem pretty pleased about this buyout, at least in public:

      http://www.google.com/press/motorola/quotes/

      ?We welcome today?s news, which demonstrates Google?s deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem.?

      ? J.K. Shin
      President, Samsung, Mobile Communications Division

      ?I welcome Google?s commitment to defending Android and its partners.?

      ? Bert Nordberg
      President & CEO, Sony Ericsson

      ?We welcome the news of today?s acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.?

      ? Peter Chou
      CEO, HTC Corp.

      ?We welcome Google?s commitment to defending Android and its partners.?

      ? Jong-Seok Park, Ph.D
      President & CEO, LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company
      Nickkuk
      • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

        @Nickkuk

        Yeah, those quotes don't sound like these execs are reading from a Google provided playbook at all. What else are they going to say? They have to toe the Google PR line until they decide what their options are and where to go next.
        Lamerz
      • Yep...

        .... it appears that rather than create a foe for the partners... what Google is doing is actually *eliminating* one...

        Most probably... MMI will remain competitive by polishing the Xoom (into an Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 version) and the Atrix... not sure they will continue with the Droid... but I don't see them abandoning the small Android phones (like the FlipOut)...

        Also, most probably... the company will be renamed in some way, only to license the Motorola name (just as Lenovo did for some time with IBM)... for a while... under a mixed Google-Motorola form... this will allow the "older" Motorola side to retake control of the brand...
        cosuna
      • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

        @Nickkuk I have to agree with @adacosta38. The purchase of MMI could have long term impact on Google's ability to add hardware partners. The announcement today was riddle with Google positioning this as defense of Android from "anti-competitive behavior by Apple, Microsoft, etc. I'm thinking this will play out very differently in the long run. The information purchase if MMI enables Google to uniquely control the end user experience within the android portfolio. Don't tell me that Google spent 12.5B today to defend a platform.
        stevenmcpherson@...
      • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

        @Nickkuk
        Sounds like a single prepared statement, with just some minor variations... I wonder who drafted the original statement???
        jaykayess
      • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

        @Lamerz:
        that is easy to say isn't it? "Oh those quotes are probably que carded by google...." You don't think each one of those CEOs weren't a little afraid that Google might give up on Android or consider it a losing cause considering how much litigation there is against it?
        It is VERY obvious to everyone that this (Google buying Motorola) is a genius move by Google and is obviously a solid way of saying "don't worry partners, we are into Android for the long haul". I mean, why wouldn't they want to keep this going with Android as it is the #1 mobile OS today.
        brad1000
    • RE: Google's Motorola acquisition: Microsoft patent case takes a new turn

      @adacosta38 It's highly unlikely any Android partners are pissed. Here's why... Motorola was thinking about suing other Android hardware makers over patents. Googles acquisition puts an end to that. This acquisition is more about the 17k-24k patents, and not so much the equipment.<br><br>Mobile OS is about to become a two team race - Andoid and IOS. Where are HTC and Samsung going to go?
      jdelaney60