Google has acquired some patents from IBM that don't seem to protect the search engine from Android lawsuits. That is, until you dig more deeply, according to IP experts.
With the number of lawsuits versus Google's Android
operating system approaching the number of cards in a deck of playing cards,
it's no wonder the search engine is trying to acquire patents related to mobile
phone and wireless network software.
A good question to ask is: Is Google doing enough?
Microsoft, Apple and others in the so-called Rockstar Bidco consortium outgunned Google for Nortel Networks'
6,000-plus wireless LTE (Long-Term
Evolution) and various other patents in June. The companies spent $4.5 billion
total in that not-so-playful game of keepaway from Google.
The search engine
responded by reportedly bidding on the patents of InterDigital
, another major
wireless patent holder. InterDigital possesses roughly 8,800 patents relating
to transmitting wireless data and other mobile phone and network technologies.
Unfortunately for Google, Apple appears to be targeting
those technologies, too. However, Bloomberg said Samsung is also in the running for InterDigital's work
. Samsung is the top
Android phone maker and a powerful Google ally; if Samsung were to procure
InterDigital's technology, it could offer protection for Google.
Still, while Google remains in limbo over the
InterDigital technology treasure trove,
the company did last month score 1,000 patents from IBM related to relational
, object-oriented programming and business processes. The patents --
1,029 of them to be exact -- also include specifications for the fabrication
and architecture of memory and microprocessing chips, as well as for servers
That deal begged the question of whether Google, whose
Android platform is seriously threatened by a lawsuit from Oracle and several
by Apple against Android OEMs, was targeting the right patents. How would
patents on database technology help Google fend off attacks versus Android? These same attacks forced Google to cry collusion on the part of Apple, Microsoft, Oracle last
Bill Slawski, search engine optimization expert and author
of the popular SEO by the Sea blog, said some of the patents Google acquired
from IBM include wireless sensors for Google's driverless cars. That's not
exactly the type of protection media and pundits envisioned when looking for
defense versus Android attackers.
Still, Slawski said Google did acquire some mobile phone
patent protection last year, when it assumed control over patents
from Myriad Group in Europe
This technology includes predictive model that guesses
what the next keystroke might be by a phone user, scrolling for zoom displays,
linking and bookmarking and application launching through a mobile browser, as
well as a number of approaches to optimizing browsing on a smartphone.
not as if Google is totally bereft of mobile patent protection.
Moreover, Slawski said the IBM patents could protect Google from
litigation in other areas by opportunistic companies. Google, for
example, acquired several patents from its Widevine acquisition that
will protect YouTube.
Intellectual property expert Florian Mueller, who as part
of his tireless coverage of Android lawsuits has counted no less than 46
lawsuits targeting Android, also offered some suggestions as to why Google is
showing a broad patent appetite.
"In order to enter into cross-license agreements
that can help to protect Android, Google would need patents that are relevant
to such companies as Apple, Microsoft and Oracle," Mueller told eWEEK. "The
types of patents Google bought from IBM looked to me like possible ammunition
for a countersuit against -- or licensing negotiation with -- Oracle."
For example, Oracle is the leading database software
maker and now Google has key relational database software patents. Mueller said
could propose to Oracle a cross-license that would resolve the Android
IP dispute on more favorable terms than Google could negotiate without such
leverage. Of course, it's not been proven whether Oracle infringes on Google's
Still, this is the kind of leverage Google could be
aiming for by acquiring patents that aren't necessarily relevant to
Android from litigants. At the least, it will deter some companies from
suing Google directly, even if it won't protect Android OEM makers.
"Apple, Microsoft and Oracle are highly
diversified tech companies, so I think Google can also benefit from patents
that aren't strictly mobile communications-related," Mueller added.
Mueller also agreed that InterDigital is valuable for
just about any company in the high-tech sector because it includes not only a a
sizable patent portfolio but a research and development group that produces
many hundreds of new patent applications every year. With these patent
researchers, Apple, Google or Microsoft could accelerate the pace at which they
obtain new patents.
Unfortunately for Google, Mueller doesn't think the
search engine could outbid Apple for InterDigital. Apple has more than $70 billion
in the bank compared to just under $40 billion for Google.