John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

ITC Gives Google a Second Shot at Apple With Motorola Patents

Yet another smartphone patent dispute is headed to review at the U.S. International Trade Commission, and like many of those that have gone before it, this one has all-too-familiar players.

The ITC voted Tuesday to investigate a patent-infringement complaint brought against Apple by Google. Filed last month by Quinn Emanuel — the law firm that represented Samsung in its recent courtroom rout by Apple, the complaint alleges that the iPhone maker violated seven patents Google acquired through its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Among the accused devices: The iPhone 3GS; the iPhone 4 and 4S; the iPad 2 and new iPad; the Mac Pro, iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air. In other words, a big chunk of Apple’s product line. Google is asking the ITC to ban the importation of all these devices, though that’s not its end game here. The company is really looking to chicken-wing Apple into negotiating a cross-licensing deal.

“We would like to settle these patent matters, but Apple’s unwillingness to work out a license leaves us little choice but to defend ourselves and our engineers’ innovations,” Google said in an August statement issued by Motorola.

A few things to remember here: The ITC’s decision to investigate Google’s claims is not a reflection of their merit. It’s pretty common for the agency to elect to consider complaints like these. This is the second time Motorola’s patents have been asserted against Apple in the ITC, and the first time things didn’t so go well. The ITC pretty much cleared Apple of infringement with respect to three patents, and remanded investigation of a fourth.

So Google here is taking a run at Apple with patents that are essentially second choice to a first-choice group that hasn’t proven very strong. This is another chance for the company to prove that the $12.5 billion it spent to gain Motorola Mobility’s patent portfolio really will deliver the sort of IP protection Google claimed it would. As Google chief legal officer David Drummond said when the search behemoth first announced plans to acquire Motorola Mobility, “We believe we’ll be in a very good position to protect the Android ecosystem for all of our partners.”

Right now, I’m not sure “very good” is an accurate way to describe Google’s position with regard to protecting Android and the OEMs that use it with Motorola’s patents. Question is, will it be a year from now, when the ITC finally rules on this complaint?


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