It’s only Tuesday, but the big news this week is already behind us: Google intends to shell out $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility and its portfolio of roughly 25,000 patents. The deal was covered far and wide, but some of the most interesting thoughts surrounding the news came late Monday night from Apple pundit John Gruber. The initial intent of Gruber’s piece was to point out the irony of reporter Dan Lyons’ repeated use of baseless speculation in an effort to discredit “Apple fanboy MG Siegler” of TechCrunch, but it evolved into an interesting commentary on the acquisition itself. Moreover, it brings a few interesting observations to light that went widely overlooked in yesterday’s coverage of the deal. BGR noted yesterday that it was curious Google chose to spend a fortune — nearly two times its 2010 profits, as Gruber points out — to acquire Motorola rather than licensing its patents. The answer might just be that Google, despite its size, was not in a position of power with this deal, and saving Android in the face of unending patent complaints became its top priority. Read on for more. More →
In a post penned by Larry Page on Google’s company blog, the CEO explains why Google decided to shell out $12.5 billion to purchase smartphone vendor Motorola Mobility. While Page had plenty to say about Motorola’s extensive history and its leading role in Android’s explosive growth, he also points to what many believe to be one of the leading factors behind the deal: patents. “We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android,” the CEO wrote on Google’s blog. “The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to ‘protect competition and innovation in the open source software community’ and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction. Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.” Read on for more. More →
HTC on Friday announced that it has agreed to acquire Seattle-based cloud services company Dashwire for up to $18.5 million via its HTC America Holding division. Dashwire currently offers a range of cloud services for carriers, handset vendors and retailers, such as Dashworks, a cross-platform cloud sync solution available for Android, Symbian, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. “Cloud services are key to delivering the promise of connected services to our customers,” HTC’s president of engineering and operations, Fred Liu, said in a statement. “People want access to all of their important content wherever they are on any device. The addition of Dashwire’s cutting-edge sync services and deep mobile cloud experience strengthens our ability to deliver these services.” The acquisition looks like it certainly might enhance new services tied to HTC’s popular Sense suite, but we have a feeling HTC’s real interest in the company can be found in a Dashwire press release from April titled, “Dashwire Becomes Intellectual Ventures Customer and Gains Patents for Defensive Purposes.” Suggesting HTC acquired Dashwire for its cloud services is probably akin to suggesting people buy Playboy for the articles.
Microsoft’s Communications boss Frank X. Shaw on Thursday responded to an update posted by Google’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, which was written in response to Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith’s response to Drummond’s initial claim that Microsoft and Apple were playing dirty with patents. Catch all that? Here’s the gist of it: Google’s David Drummond wrote on Wednesday that Microsoft, Apple and others were “banding together to acquire Novell’s old patents (the ‘CPTN’ group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel’s old patents (the ‘Rockstar’ group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn’t get them.” Microsoft’s Frank X. Shaw and Brad Smith each responded on Twitter, saying that Google was invited to the patent party but the company declined the invitation. On Thursday, Drummond updated his original post on the Google blog, stating that Microsoft and Apple’s invitation was disingenuous. Had Google joined the group that purchased the patents, Drummond explained, the joint acquisition would have “eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners.”
Microsoft’s Shaw then shot back on Twitter, saying that Drummond is a liar and Google didn’t joint the group because it wanted the patents all to itself (of course Google’s bids in the Nortel patent auction were seemingly intended to merely drive up the price of the portfolio; it bid $Pi billion at one point). The bottom line is it’s all ridiculous, and each company is out to protect its own interests as can only be expected. It would be great if tech giants could fire all their patent attorneys and build innovative products without having to weave through an obstacle course of patents, but that will never happen under the current system. In the meantime, companies will keep suing each other and in the end, everyone — including end users — loses.
Apple sat quiet following Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond’s rant yesterday, as it always does, but Microsoft was not content letting Drummond air his grievances without responding. Drummond on Wednesday penned a post on Google’s blog claiming that Apple, Microsoft and other companies are joining together to “strangle” Android with patent complaints. With all of the patent-related lawsuits against Android partners right now, this certainly seems like a valid complaint. Highlighting a specific example, Drummond wrote that the companies are “banding together to acquire Novell’s old patents (the “CPTN” group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel’s old patents (the ‘Rockstar’ group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn’t get them.” Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith disagreed, however, and he pointed out a gaping hole in Drummond’s argument: “Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no,” Smith wrote on Twitter. Microsoft’s Corporate Communications boss Frank X. Shaw followed up Smith’s note by posting an image on Twitter of an email between Brad Smith and Google’s General Counsel Kent Walker where Walker refuses Microsoft’s invitation to bid on Nortel’s patent portfolio alongside Microsoft and other companies. The image of the email and a transcription of its contents can be seen below. More →
Google’s general counsel Kent Walker apparently doesn’t see eye to eye with the rest of his company. “The tech industry has a significant problem,” Walker said earlier this week. “Software patents are kind of gumming up the works of innovation.” According to SEO by the Sea however, Google purchased 1,030 patents from IBM just two weeks before Walker made those comments. According to the report, the patents purchased cover a wide rage of IP, “from the fabrication and architecture of memory and microprocessing chips, to other areas of computer architecture including servers and routers as well.” Still more patents cover specific database functions, various aspects of object-oriented programming and even some business processes. The terms of Google’s acquisition have not been disclosed. More →
A group of companies including Apple, Microsoft, Research In Motion, Sony, EMC and Ericsson offered the winning bid in an auction that will net them Nortel’s extensive portfolio of patents. The bankrupt telecommunications company held roughly 6,000 patents, and the six-company consortium’s winning bid came in at $4.5 billion. Among the big losers were Google, which opened the bidding at $900 million, and Intel. Patents within the massive cache cover a wide range of technologies including wireless, voice, networking, optical data transmission and 4G LTE. RIM said it would be responsible for $77o million of the winning bid, and Ericsson separately stated it would pay $340 million. The rest of the companies in the consortium did not disclose their contributions.
Nokia has lost a patent battle with a Germany-based IPCom that took place in a U.K. court, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. “As far as we know, this is the first time that an essential telecoms 3G patent was ever upheld and judged infringed in the U.K.,” Bernhard Frohwitter, IPCom’s Managing Director, said. Nokia sees the ruling a bit differently, however, and has argued that IPCom’s claims “[reflect] a severe misunderstanding” of the U.K. High Court’s ruling. IPCom originally alleged that Nokia had been infringing on a tech patent that “allows mobile telephony networks to assign priorities to users.” The German company was seeking damages and an injunction to halt the sale of certain Nokia phones in the U.K., but Nokia said it is confident it can continue selling all of its current devices legally. Nokia believes IPCom’s tactic is to try to trap it into “unrealistic licensing terms,” and that it will “continue to defend itself vigorously.” More →
Google was recently granted permission to purchase a patent portfolio previously held by Modu, a now defunct Israeli cell phone maker that couldn’t find a market for its minuscule mobile phones. Modu emerged in 2008 touting a peculiar modular cell phone that could be placed in a variety of sleeves to perform different functions. The unique phones, while certainly interesting, lacked mass appeal and were only picked up by a few carriers. Modu would later unveil several new tiny cell phone models as it prepared for an IPO, but the company would instead be forced to shutter its operations when it ran out of cash. Proceeds from Google’s $4.9 million IP purchase will be used to pay back Modu’s creditors and former Modu employees who are still due wages. Google is likely eyeing future Android functionality that might be made possible by its acquisition of Modu’s patent portfolio, though the company has not revealed any plans related to Modu’s former patents. More →