Patent Lawyers Find Value in the Googorola Deal

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Of the 17,000 patents Google will pick up when the company completes its acquisition of Motorola Mobility (MMI), 18 of them are likely to be considered the most important, according to patent lawyers who weighed in on the deal. According to Bloomberg, patent experts said the patents, some dating back to 1994, apply to location services, antenna designs, e-mail transmission, touchscreen motions, software application management, and third-generation wireless technologies.

Ron Epstein, CEO of Epicenter IP Group LLC, a Redwood City, California-based patent brokerage, went so far as to tell the news organization that the MMI acquisition has shifted the balance of power in the patent wars between Apple, Microsoft, and Google, and that at the very lest discussions for cross-licensing between the companeis is now “inevitable.” 

Motorola Mobility Holdings has more than 17,000 patents, with an additional 7,500 pending. Before the announced acquisition, Google had less than 1,000 patents to its name and had been mostly sitting on the sidelines as it’s hardware partners have been actively involved in lawsuits with Apple and Microsoft.

That might not be the case for long, however. David Drummond, Google’s Google’s Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, noted in a conference call with analyts that, “We’ve been saying for some time that we intend to protect the Android ecosystem. It’s under threat.”

That’s the same David Drummond who accused Apple and Microsoft of using “bogus patents”  in an orchestrated campaign to try and stifle the innovation that is Android.

Motorola Mobility had three lawsuits and an ITC complaint against Apple dating from last year. Those cases involve the iPhone 4, iPad, AppleTV, and MacBook Air. The acquired patents are also believed to be useful against Microsoft and RIM. Four of the newly acquired patents were used in a case with RIM that came to a settlement last year.



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Lee Dronick

Googorola, that is a good one!


Googorola? Isn’t that a smelly type of cheese?

Lee Dronick

Googorola? Isn?t that a smelly type of cheese?

Well the whole deal stinks.


A beg to differ from Mr. Epstein, supra, that the Motorola Mobility’s (Moto’s) patents will inevitably force cross licensing or a settlement or otherwise compel Apple and/or Microsoft to relent in the prosecution of their infringement lawsuits against Moto or any of the other Android OEMs.  That is a question that will depend on certain unknown factors.  First, of the 18 patents at issue and of the other patents in Moto’s portfolio, one must separate out the FRAND patents, that is, the patents that Moto is obliged to license to others on Fair Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory terms.  With respect to Moto’s FRAND patents, the only issue is what is a FRAND royalty, if any, that Apple and Microsoft should respectively pay for the use of Moto’s FRAND patents.  The court will determine that royalty and, based on it, what Apple and Microsoft owe for past and future use of Moto’s FRAND patents.  And if the court determines that Moto engages in a material breach by not offering FRAND terms to Apple or Microsoft, neither Apple or Microsoft may owe anything for past infringement.  So determining and paying a FRAND royalty for Moto’s FRAND patents is just a matter of money and will not likely obliged either Apple or Microsoft to cross-license any of their patents or otherwise relent in the prosecution of their respective patent infringement claims against the Android OEMs. 

Beyond Moto’s FRAND patents, Moto must find, among its portfolio of patents, patents that are important to any of Apple’s devices that Apple is infringing, for those are the only patents that constitute a threat that could make Apple settle or otherwise relent in its prosecution of its patent infringement claims against Moto or the other Android OEMs.  It is impossible to know whether Moto has any such patents.  It may, or it may not have such patents. 

However, even if Moto does have such patents, it is unclear yet whether Apple will be able to avoid using those patents or will obtain licenses for those patents, at least in its future devices.  We will have to wait for the results of the bidding for the InterDigital patents and wait to discover whether those patents, if Apple is the successful bidder, along with the Nortel patents and Apple’s own patents, are sufficient to avoid at least future infringement of any of Moto patents that are practically necessary for any of Apple important devices.

So notwithstanding the colorful quotes from the patent brokers in the Bloomberg story, much remains to be revealed before we know how effectively Google’s purchase of Moto’s patents will defend any of Android’s OEMs from either Apple or Microsoft’s prosecution of their respective patent infringement claims.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

There are a couple of things that I hope for in the next 12 months:

1. That the Moto patents acquired by Google actually do change the balance of power.

2. That Google uses these patents to protect Android and all of the OHA partners from lawsuits from the more vertically integrated vendors, like Apple, RIM, and Microsoft (/Nokia).

These results would once and for all show that Google took the high road to dominance.


By ‘took the high road to dominance’, do you mean ‘finally paid for the right to use some intellectual property, rather than just assuming they could ignore others’ IP rights, and did so in desperation to prevent their handhold in the mobile device market from disintegrating’?

I think stiff competition is a good thing for the market. It makes everybody - whether it be Apple, Microkia, RIM, Google, or anybody else - work hard to innovate in an effort to get to, and/or stay at, the top. Of course Apple, MS and others stepped over the line into others’ IP, somewhat, in designing and building their products. There is rarely any instance of a 100% original idea, and that’s just part of business. Justifiably, that has resulted in legal action between them. However, most of them have innovated and patented their innovations so that they have a legal claim to their inventions and processes. Google has done little of this, and therefore has had little, if any, legal leg to stand on to show that they have developed anything even remotely original and not excessively derivative of others IP.

One result of Google spending a metric shatload of money to buy Motorola is that they finally, legitimately own a chunk of valuable IP related to the ‘smart phone’ market. Now, they may finally have to accept that they have to sit at the same table as all of their competitors and work out how to manage the access of all the related IP. As to who will ‘win’ or ‘lose’ in the resulting cross-fire is something we will have to wait and see.

I think Google felt pressure to do something to build up it’s legal walls, due to all of the patent litigation threatening them and their partners, but I think it was Motorola’s threat to start suing others in the Android family that drove Google to take the step they did and fork out such a hefty sum. If Motorola had followed through on their threats, the legal battles and the resulting licensing fees involved in making Android devices could have become prohibitively expensive for even the bigger players. If that had happened, Google would have had to watch the revenues from Android dry up.

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