Intellectual Ventures, a large holder of patents, has sued Motorola Mobility in the US for alleged infringement of its smartphone-related intellectual property.
The company, founded by former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold, buys up patents from inventors and other companies, then collects licensing fees for their use and sues those who do not pay up. On Thursday, Intellectual Ventures (IV) sued Motorola over its use of six patents covering such things as file transfer and portable computing.
"Intellectual Ventures has successfully signed licensing agreements with many of the top handset manufacturers in the world, and has been in discussions with Motorola Mobility for some time," IV chief litigation counsel Melissa Finocchio said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we have been unable to reach agreement on a licence. We have a responsibility to our current customers and our investors to defend our intellectual property rights against companies such as Motorola Mobility who use them without a licence."
Google is in the process of buying Motorola Mobility, ostensibly for its own handset-related patents. However, Google is also an investor in IV, legal documentation released in May has shown. Specifically, it is an investor in IV's Invention Investment Fund I, which specialises in enforcing patents that IV bought in rather than invented.
It is not clear how this fits with Google's pronouncements on the current technology patent scene. In August, for example, Google legal chief David Drummond bemoaned how "patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it". Google general counsel Kent Walker has also noted how "software patents are kind of gumming up the works of innovation".
The patents cited in IV's complaint, which was filed at a Delaware district court, include:
- US patent number 7,810,144, covering a "file transfer system for direct transfer between computers"
- 6,412,953, covering an "illumination device and image projection apparatus comprising the device"
- 7,409,450, covering a "transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP) packet-centric wireless point to multi-point (PtMP) transmission system architecture"
- 7,120,462, covering a "portable computing, communication and entertainment device with central processor carried in a detachable handset"
- 6,557,054, covering a "method and system for distributing updates by presenting directory of software available for user installation that is not already installed on user station"
- 6,658,464, covering "user station software that controls transport, storage, and presentation of content from a remote source"
According to the complaint, IV first approach Motorola about licensing in January of this year, but the manufacturer has "failed and refused to license Intellectual Ventures' patents on reasonable terms and continues to use those inventions without permission".
IV claims infringement in 18 Motorola phones and devices, including Android phones such as the Atrix 4G and Milestone X, and the 'Lapdock' accessory for the Atrix. IV is not asking the court to block the sale of Motorola's devices; it just wants Motorola to pay an undisclosed amount in damages, plus legal fees.
ZDNet UK has asked both Google and Motorola for comment on the case, but had received a reply from neither company at the time of writing.