Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Rockstar Patent Consortium Sues Google, and Practically Everyone Making Android Phones

lawsuits_380-featureIf it seemed as though the already insane world of wireless-patent lawsuits couldn’t become any more complicated — well, yesterday it did.

As Google and its partners are launching the Nexus 5 and KitKat, the latest version of the Android operating system, a consortium of tech companies had other plans.

The so-called Rockstar Consortium — an alliance of Apple and Microsoft, plus BlackBerry, Ericsson and Sony — controls a portfolio of some 6,000 patents bought from the bankrupt Canadian telecommunications company Nortel. They paid $4.5 billion for the patents in 2011.

Yesterday was something of a D-day, as Rockstar filed eight lawsuits in a federal court in Texas, accusing Google of infringing those patents. In addition to Google, the defendants in the cases are Samsung, LG Electronics, HTC, Huawei, Asustek, Pantech and ZTE Corp., constituting essentially all of the Android smartphone ecosystem. One batch of suits — mainly the one against Google itself — go after its mainstream advertising business. The others go after the phones themselves.

One thing that’s likely to count against Google as the case gets under way is the fact that it engaged in the competitive bidding for the patents. As the complaint against Google says (you can read it below), it bid as much as $4.4 billion for the trove of patents, only to be outbid in the end. That’s going to make it harder to argue in court that the patents in question aren’t worth anything. I was interested to read Florian Mueller’s comment today, on Foss Patents , that there’s a Latin phrase for this sort of thing: Venire contra factum proprium, which basically means that you can’t argue that what you did before is meaningless.

Google didn’t immediately have a comment. Its shares are rising in pre-market trading today, up $2.42, to $1,033 a share.

rockstar_v_google.pdf


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik