Amazon seeking patent expert in 'expansion' push

Amazon is the latest giant to join jump into the intellectual property and patent acquisition business as it attempts to fend off its arch rivals in the mobile space.

Retail giant Amazon has hired a firm to seek out a patents and intellectual property acquisition specialist to "identify and evaluate strategic IP acquisition and licensing opportunities," according to a job description seen by Reuters last week.

The hunt to find an "acquisition and investment leader" will see the successful candidate working with Amazon's "business teams to identify and procure intellectual property" as part of efforts "to support and protect our expansion," the description notes.

Exactly how this will work is unclear yet, however. It could be one of two opposing things: Amazon is out to ensure that it doesn't tread on anyone else's patent toes ahead of time in a bid to protect itself from litigation; or it's actively seeking as many patents as it can in order to prepare for litigation itself.

What is interesting, however, is either way it signals that Amazon is looking to expand outside its typical realms of e-commerce and tablet devices.

Amazon already has a host of products it wants to protect, not limited to wireless devices and digital media. The firm already has a wealth of patents related to e-commerce and online shopping.

In doing so, Amazon has already hired three patent experts this year alone, including two former RealNetworks employees and one from Intellectual Ventures, dubbed a "patent troll" by HP chief technology officer Shane Robison.

But an intellectual property push could foresee a move towards an already burgeoning market: smartphones. 

The retail giant is pegged to release a smartphone by the end of the year. If it does, it will likely make its pitch during the September-October period in the run up to the holiday season. Patents here are the real issue. While Samsung remains in the crosshairs of Apple as the world's biggest Android smartphone distributor, Amazon could be walking into the firing line if its products are successful enough. 

Amazon did not respond to comment at the time of writing. 

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