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

With the Google announcement that it intends to buy Motorola Mobility, the Microsoft vs. Motorola patent battle just took a new turn.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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?

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