Google Asks Court to Protect Android Licensees from Apple-Owned Rockstar

Google in CourtGoogle has sued patent holding company Rockstar—a company owned by Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry Sony, and Ericsson—asking the courts to protect various Android licensees from patent infringement claims by Rockstar. In the suit, Google accuses the suits of, "placing a cloud on the Android platform."

Google is asking the courts to declare that the company's Nexus line of products (made by other companies) don't infringe on seven Rockstar-owned patents that were acquired in an auction by now-defunct Nortel. Google also wants the court to declare that other Android products made by Google licensees targeted by Rockstar don't infringe.

In the court filing, Google wrote that, "Rockstar's litigation campaign has placed a cloud on Google's Android platform; threaten Google's business and relationships with its customers and partners, as well as its sales of Nexus-branded Android devices; and created a justiciable controversy between Google and Rockstar."

The suit accuses Rockstar of conducting a campaign of harassment against Android licensees, and plays up the fact that Rockstar is a so-called non-practicing entity (NPE). While Rockstar is owned by companies that actually make products, or practicing entities, Rockstar itself does not.

NPEs are often called patent trolls, and such trolls have long targeted Apple and other tech giants for a string of patent infringement suits. While it's more of a stretch to call Rockstar a patent troll because of its owners, the reality is that because it's an NPE, it's harder for companies targeted for infringement claims to defend themselves because they can't make counter infringement claims.

That process of claim and counter claim has been the cornerstone of corporate patent infringement strategy for decades, and Google and its Android licensees are at a severe disadvantage when defending themselves against Rockstar. That makes you question Google's decision not to join up with other Rockstar bidders when invited to do so in 2011.

Acting as Google's attorneys is the law firm Quinn Emmanuel. This is the same firm that managed to lose all of its patent infringement claims against Apple on behalf of Samsung, and who lost Samsung more than $900 million in damages when Samsung was found guilty of infringing on Apple's patents.

For entertainment's sake, you may get a kick out of GigaOM's coverage, which is filled with vitriol and bile aimed at Apple and Rockstar, while casting Google in the role of heroic defender. It's frankly not the quality content I expect from the publication.