Despite publicly belittling software patents and lobbying for patent reform that would make it difficult for companies to use such patents in patent-based lawsuits, Google is building an impressive arsenal of patents of its own at a much faster rate than in previous years. While the move may be perceived as an attempt to defend its Android mobile operating system that’s under attack from rivals including Apple and Microsoft – as well as to attack them back – it would appear that Google is protecting all of its interests, across a variety of markets that it’s currently a player in. MIT’s Technology Review reports that this year alone, Google is on track to be awarded about 1,800 patents, putting Google on the top 10 patent recipients list, ahead of companies like GE and Intel. Google is now No. 3 or No. 4 on that list behind the likes of IBM and Microsoft. To help illustrate what a dramatic change this is from the old Google, in 2007 when the iPhone was first introduced, Google was awarded only 38 patents.
Steve Jobs famously said that with the iPhone, Apple decided to “patent it all,” after losing a $100 million iPad lawsuit. And Apple proved to be the main opponent in courts of Android, wining several favorable verdicts in cases against Samsung, HTC and Motorola in the U.S. and around the world.
Microsoft, another important Google rival, is reportedly making around $2 billion a year from licensing deals inked with a large number of Android device makers.
It’s not 2003 anymore, when Google was awarded only four patents all year. Now, the company sits on a trove of around 51,000 patents, and it is now awarded an average of 10 patents every day the U.S. Patent & Trademark office is open. In November 2013, Google was awarded 177 patents. The company’s patent war chest also includes over 17,000 patents and 7,000 patent applications from Motorola, which were acquired when Google purchased the company for $12.5 billion last year.