What Google Wants With All Those IBM Patents

Google acquired more than 1,000 patents from IBM, gaining patents that can help the search giant prevent and fight lawsuits as well as to develop new technologies.

Google has acquired more than 1,000 patents from IBM in a move to bolster its patent portfolio as the search giant girds for battle over Android.

As first reported by the SEO by the Sea blog, on July 11 and 12, Google recorded the assignment of 1,029 granted patents from IBM covering a range of topics, including relational databases, object-oriented programming and business processes. The patents also cover such things as "the fabrication and architecture of memory and microprocessing chips, to other areas of computer architecture including servers and routers as well," said Bill Slawski, author of the SEO by the Sea blog.

"Like many tech companies, at times we'll acquire patents that are relevant to our business," a Google spokesman said in a statement.

Slawski listed several patents Google acquired that are related to search and search engines, including:

In a July 29 post, Slawski lists all of the 1,029 patents Google acquired from IBM.

"Google acquired a number of additional patents from IBM earlier this year and last year as well," Slawski wrote in that post. "I included those in my February post, Google Patents, Updated and Google Self Driving Cars Get Jumpstart from IBM Patents."

And in a July 31 post, Slawski wrote about other patents Google has acquired recently.

"Some other recent patent acquisitions by Google include patents from Exbiblio, from Widevine, the phone patents from Myriad Group, more phone related patents from Verizon, and a number of memory chip related patents from Metaram, amongst others," Slawski said.

However, Slawski also discovered Google's acquisition of two patents from Successes.com for "a system and method for story creation workflow management" and "system and method for content development management," according to the abstracts for the patents.

"The patents show a richly detailed online process for building case studies, corporate biographies, and other content," Slawski said.

Slawski noted that the two patents acquired from Successes.com are less likely to be used to help protect Google from patent litigation or to help it develop new technologies.

Overall, the acquisition of new patents will help Google fend off potential lawsuits, as the company increases the number of patents that cover technologies in its possession.

Technology patent watcher Florian Mueller, author of the FOSS Patents blog, said one possible early use for the patents Google acquired from IBM could be to negotiate some kind of cross-patent deal with Oracle that could hasten a settlement to the lawsuit Oracle has leveled against Google over the use of Java in Google's Android mobile operating system.

In a July 29 post, Mueller said:

""In the near term, one of the most obvious ways to put them to use would be to pick some that may read on important Oracle products and propose to Oracle a cross-license that would resolve the Android IP dispute on more favorable terms than Google could negotiate without such leverage. Many of the transferred patents cover fields of technology that are key to Oracle, though this doesn't automatically mean that Oracle infringes any valid ones of them.""

And although he could not say to what degree exactly, the new patents from IBM definitely make Google stronger. Said Mueller:

""This is difficult to assess from the outside, but my feeling is that this deal can help Google to defend itself against other patent holders if it's sued directly. It can serve to deter some companies from suing Google directly. But it's hard to imagine that this deal puts Google into such an incredibly powerful position that it can give an intellectual property guarantee (including indemnification) to its device makers.""

There is irony in Google acquiring patents from IBM, in that Forbes recently published its list of "The World's Most Innovative Companies." Google is No. 7 on that list, and IBM does not even make the list of 100 companies. Yet, when it comes time to beef up its patent portfolio, Google turns to the Forbes-proclaimed non-innovative IBM. Obviously, Big Blue was not considered innovative enough for Forbes, but apparently IBM is plenty innovative to Google.

In January, IBM announced that its inventors received a record 5,896 U.S. patents in 2010, marking the 18th consecutive year it has topped the list of the world's most inventive companies. IBM became the first company to be granted as many as 5,000 U.S. patents in a single year.