The business of smartphone production is starting to look more like the a John Grisham legal novel. While handset makers try to out-innovate each other with high-end, spec-heavy handsets consumers will flock to, lawyers are trying to out-flank each other with patent suits and red-tape. No longer can you have an armada of talented engineers and a driven executive team, you also must possess a war chest of hardware and software patents to prevent your company from entering litigation limbo — just Google the words Nokia, Apple, and patent if you don’t know what we’re talking about.
In an effort to protect itself from this corporate conundrum, Google has announced a $900 million bid for over 6,000 patents currently owned by Nortel. As the company’s Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Kent Walker, explained in a blog post: “The tech world has recently seen an explosion in patent litigation, often involving low-quality software patents, which threatens to stifle innovation. Some of these lawsuits have been filed by people or companies that have never actually created anything; others are motivated by a desire to block competing products or profit from the success of a rival’s new technology.”
Trying to prevent this, Google has publicly stated that its $900 million offer has been selected as the “striking-horse bid” for Nortel’s portfolio of patents in the company’s upcoming bankruptcy auction. “The patent system should reward those who create the most useful innovations for society, not those who stake bogus claims or file dubious lawsuits,” continues Walker. “In the absence of meaningful reform, we believe it’s the best long-term solution for Google, our users and our partners.”