Android’s patent quagmire (Part I)
RELENTLESS ASSAULT! Android faces the spectre of being under seige under continuous patent lawsuits filed in by rivals from Oracle to Apple , Microsoft and BT. After taking the smartphone sphere by a storm and garnering 50% and more market share , Android mobile OS is stumbling through a legal minefield. It does appear that in a tearing hurry to address markets, Google didnot read through the legal fine print.
About 40 different lawsuits have been filed against Google and its partners for various intellectual property issues relating to the Android. Many of these lawsuits stem from non-practicing entities (aka patent trolls), but several of these lawsuits come from large competitors. There is basically no way to build a smartphone that doesn’t infringe on someone else’s patents, either knowingly or unknowingly, because there are simply too many of them, intellectual property experts say. What a company must do is prevent any obvious infringements in areas that are essential to the platform’s functionality, and amass a patent portfolio so large that lawsuits can be met with something more than empty words. Basically it’s all-out war and you come to the war with your stacks of patents, and Google didn’t have as much as the other companies. That’s why it’s being hurt today.
With Android becoming mainstream before Google amassed enough patents to protect it, the company tried to solve the problem by waving money at it. Google’s attempts to buy the patent portfolio from bankrupt Nortel failed, with a consortium including Apple, Microsoft, and RIM putting together the winning package of $4.5 billion. Stymied, Google decided to buy Motorola Mobility and its portfolio of 17,000 patents worldwide, for a premium price of $12.5 billion.
Plain and simple, Google didnot see the patents storm coming and was grossly underprepared for the legal minefield. Desperate times call for desperate moves and Google tried acquiring the Nortel portfolio of patents for $4.5bln and ultimately ended up acquiring Motorola Mobility’s patent set for $12.5 bln. Many believe the price was a stretch.Pending the regulatory approval, the Motorola portfolio has at least 18 key patents for Google, covering location services, antenna designs, e-mail transmission, touchscreen motions, application management, and 3G wireless.