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Google makes bid on Nortel patents to shield Android

updated 11:55 am EDT, Mon April 4, 2011

Google makes stalking horse bid on Nortel patents

Google on Monday said it had made a strategic bid on Nortel's patent sale to protect Android. A "stalking horse" bid chosen by Nortel has put a minimum price of $900 million and is meant to discourage patent trolls, as well as anti-Android rivals like Microsoft and Oracle, from making relatively casual bids that let them attack the mobile OS further. Patent law was broken, and either acquiring the patents or forcing the price up was the best way of discouraging lawsuits meant solely to keep a competitor down.

"If successful, we hope this portfolio will not only create a disincentive for others to sue Google, but also help us, our partners and the open source community--which is integrally involved in projects like Android and Chrome--continue to innovate," General Counsel Kent Walker said. "In the absence of meaningful reform, we believe it's the best long-term solution for Google, our users and our partners."

The search giant has an immediate incentive to make a bid for the patents to possibly give it ammunition against Oracle's ongoing Java lawsuit. The case has so far gone against Google with signs that it may have directly lifted Sun code, now owned by Oracle, for the Java engine in Android 2.2 and beyond.

The move would, however, also discourage some of the proxy lawsuits targeted not at Google itself but at those using its software. Apple sued HTC in a relatively limited campaign to stifle Android. Microsoft may be the greater threat as it has engaged in a shakedown campaign to have Barnes & Noble, Motorola, and all other Android device makers pay royalties unless they agree to use Windows Phone as well.

Microsoft's tactics have often involved using a patent deal with another company to make claims without having to actually test the validity of its patents in court. Google may have been prompted to take action in part from the Attachmate-Novell deal. Microsoft ended up backing off, but it had been close to acquiring another set of patents that it would have likely started wielding against Android and Linux device makers to stifle competition.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. chippie

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2009

    -7

    Good For Google!

    Unfortunately all the big tech companies infringe on smaller companies patents. So, this current trend of buying smaller companies to patent troll is pure hypocrisy. Google will survive.

  1. pairof9s

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jan 2008

    +4

    The whole thing is wacked!

    Everyone suing everyone and patenting even air! The only ones winning in this whole are the lawyers...and Charlie Sheen of course. Duh!

    /

  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: Jul 2009

    +12

    Bah.

    Google's tactic over the last several years has been "do whatever you like, whether it is legal or not, and then defy anyone who sues you". (See Android's transformation from a dumb-phone OS to an iOS clone after seeing prerelease iPhones, the Java patent suit brought by Oracle, and several other, smaller things.) Why they care, at this point, I'm not sure.

  1. tundaman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2010

    +10

    Rectroative licensing?

    I'm curious about how this could help Google in a ongoing lawsuit. Not familiar with US law, but chronology is a important principle in many countries legal systems, and it states that infringement is characterized by the situation effective at the moment of the filling. So the fact that a company took measures to became legal after a lawsuit doesn't eliminate the infringement that was issued as a reason by the prosecutor in the first place.

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010

    +7

    The tip of the iceberg

    The Oracle lawsuit is just the first shot in what could very possibly turn out to be a very long battle. Google has stepped on so many patents with Android that it's amazing that Google's top brass approved the project at all. Maybe that's why Schmidt is no longer CEO. He's an engineer, not a lawyer.

    On the other hand, the Oracle lawsuit is airtight, there is legal precedent (Sun vs. Microsoft over similar Java license violations), and Larry Ellison is a stone killer in the tech space. He doesn't just win. He wins and then destroys his competition.

    The only possible outcomes of the Oracle suit are 1. Android will be taken off the market, then "impounded and destroyed," according to the lawsuit. Or 2. Google will be forced to pay a license fee for each an every handset (and possibly iPad clones) that their hardware partners manage to ship. Just like everyone else who uses Java in their shipping products.

    Android just lost one of its only two advantages over iOS. It's no longer "open." The screaming Open Source bottle-fed babies of the world will need to rally behind some other champion. And Android will lose its last remaining advantage if it survives the Oracle suit. It will no longer be "free."

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2004

    -1

    @tundamen its not about licensing

    Patents are vague and overbroad.

    It's not about retroactive licensing, its about acquiring a broad patent portfolio, so when someone claims you've violated their patents, you can point out to them, that they have violated your patents.

    It doesn't matter if you just bought the patents 1 day ago, if they are in violation of them, you could enforce it, at least in theory.

    Then again, you may try to enforce it, and discover they are thrown out for being too broad.

    You won't know for many years, as things drag on, and appeal after appeal is launched.

    Google should have bought Sun - Oracle bought them instead and sued Google.
    Now Google is buying Nortel, and may sue Oracle.

    How do you seperate one from the other? C'mon. Oracle didn't invent any of this, they just got Sun on the cheap.

    Frankly I'm surprised it took Google this long. They could have bought both Palm and Sun, and be in fantastic shape to sue others, including Apple.

    They didn't want to play that game, but unfortunately, you have to do it, you really have no choice, and they may suffer greatly for it now.

    now everyone thinks Google stole Sun's code, when Sun's code was open source, and Sun was encouraging people to use it, and yes - an open source license doesn't mean you can just take it, there are a lot of complications here, but Google hardly thought they were doing anything wrong, by using an independent implementation of Java.

    Writing a DOS clone, remember DR DOS, remember IBM had a clone too? That was "not" illegal.
    But nowaways, someone will claim they have a patent on a "flashing cursor in front of a C; prompt"

    Someone will have a patent on a graphic that can move on a screen. Someone will have a patent, on a button used to power off a computer. That's how insane it has gotten.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -5

    Re: The tip of the iceberg

    Uh-oh, SockRolid up to his FUD spreading again.

    On the other hand, the Oracle lawsuit is airtight, there is legal precedent (Sun vs. Microsoft over similar Java license violations), and Larry Ellison is a stone killer in the tech space. He doesn't just win. He wins and then destroys his competition.

    No lawsuit is ever 'airtight'. The legal precedent isn't a precedent, as it covers a completely different topic. But, hey, why let such trifling matters ruin a good argument.

    The only possible outcomes of the Oracle suit are 1. Android will be taken off the market, then "impounded and destroyed," according to the lawsuit. Or 2. Google will be forced to pay a license fee for each an every handset (and possibly iPad clones) that their hardware partners manage to ship. Just like everyone else who uses Java in their shipping products.

    Android isn't going to be taken off the market, and you can't impound a person's phone (though you sure do love throwing that around. Trying to scare possible Android buyers that someone will snatch their phone from them one day, are we?

    Android just lost one of its only two advantages over iOS. It's no longer "open."

    How is it no-longer open? It's still open. You can still get the code. Oh, wait, it's no longer 'open' if Google loses the lawsuit and they destroy all the phones. Yeah, you're right. It's a completely closed product.

    And the 'open' advantage was as much about being able to install what you wanted as much as "you can modify it as you see fit". Few users even think about modifying Android. But a lot like being able to download and install apps that don't have to go through Apple's "purity" checks first.

    The screaming Open Source bottle-fed babies of the world will need to rally behind some other champion. And Android will lose its last remaining advantage if it survives the Oracle suit. It will no longer be "free."

    You really need to seek some help. Advantage over 'what'? iOS is all I can assume you're talking about. And, if so, you're completely wrong. For it holds many advantages over the iOS. One being it's available. The second is that it isn't restricted as to who can run what.

    Android is NOT about a bunch of open-source babies. It's an OS used by many a phone manufacturer. Are you saying all these manufacturers are just going to dump Android due to a licensing issue? And use what? It's not like they're going to just close up shop. And it isn't like iOS is available.

    As for restrictions, there's still no restrictions. Developers can develop what they want. If you want to make something for your phone, feel free. If you want to make a cool app and just distribute it yourself so you can keep the proceeds, feel free. If you want to release a version of an open-source app, you can do that too.

    There's lots of reasons people use Android. You make it sound like the only people using it are linux kiddies and open-source zealots.

  1. macgurunc

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2011

    +1

    LTE not Android

    While the debate goes back and forth as to what this means for Android, NORTEL had patents for LTE among many others (optical etc.). This is most likely a WIRELESS move for Google. The theory is that NORTEL patents for LTE *could* be worth 1% royalty per LTE device that uses the licensed technology. Some estimates had the LTE patent portfolio worth ~$3Billion. No matter how 'benevolent' Google is they are a publicly traded company and if you own shares in GOOG you should be very concerned about them dropping close to a billion dollars with no real assurance that you get protection from patent trolls. There is more to this story than meets the eye.

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