Google buys IBM patents

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Google Inc. has bought around 1,000 pending and issued patents from IBM Corp in its quest to shore up its defenses against suits by other technology companies, according to documents filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Google said Friday that it has purchased technology patents fromInternational Business MachinesCorp. as the Web-search giant stocks up on intellectual property.

The purchase was reported earlier by theblog SEO by the Sea, which said Google in mid-July recorded the acquisition of more than 1,000 patents.

They cover a range of topics, including microprocessing chips, regional databases and memory fabrication and architecture, said Bill Slawski, president of SEO by the Sea, a Warrenton, Virginia-based, research firm specializing in search-engine optimisation.

“Like many tech companies, at times we’ll acquire patents that are relevant to our business,” Google said on Saturday in an emailed statement.

The patent transfers were recorded two weeks ago and cover varied technologies, many of which have little to do with Googles Internet search and advertising business.

But even patents that have little do with Googles business can be useful ammunition in the hyper-litigious technology world. If its sued over patents by a company whose business relies on technologies covered by Googles patents, Google can file a retaliatory lawsuit.

The Google spokesman declined to comment on the purchase price.

Google faces patent lawsuits for many of its services, including its Android mobile-device operating system, which has become a bigger target as its world-wide popularity has risen. It is unclear whether any current lawsuits pose a threat to future revenue generated by Google’s new technologies.

The Android system is a free, open-source program that relies on some nonproprietary features Google didn’t create and allows outside developers to modify the code. That has left the company vulnerable to claims that it built Android on the backs of research done by other technology companies. “The patent is the fruit of a company’s efforts,” Slawski said. “It says you’ve given yourself a chance to develop technology and then actually do something with it.”

Android is the leading smartphone platform in the world with over 500,000 device activations every day. It is one of Google’s most successful businesses helping Google capture mobile search market share and revenues that will top $1.3 billion in 2012. Microsoft owns several patents relating to Android technology and so Android’s success is quickly becoming a boon for Microsoft, which has established licensing agreements with several Android manufacturers to settle patent infringement claims.

‘Patent game’

“The tech world has recently seen an explosion in patent litigation, often involving low-quality software patents, which threatens to stifle innovation. Some…are motivated by a desire to block competing products or profit from the success of a rival’s new technology,” wrote Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, in a blog post.

However, due to the current realities of theU.S.and international legal system on patents, Google has no choice but to play the patent game, saidWalker.

A few weeks ago, it entered into a multi-billion dollar bid for the 6,000 patents of the bankrupt Nortel Networks. During the bidding process, Google behaved in a highly unorthodox manner by not bidding standard round numbers.

Its bids included $1.902 billion (reference to Brun’s constant), $2.614 billion (reference to Meissel-Mertens constant), and $3.141 billion (reference to pi).

“It was not clear what strategy Google was employing, whether it wanted to confuse rival bidders, intimidate them, or simply express the irreverence that is part and parcel of its corporate persona,” wrote Nadia Damouni of Reuters.

Ultimately, the Nortel patents were won for $4.5 billion by a consortium that included Apple, Microsoft, and RIM, which are all direct competitors of Google’s Android OS.

Google, of Mountain View, Calif., has been in talks to buy InterDigital Inc., a company that owns thousands of patents and licenses them but doesn’t create products, people familiar with the matter have said. Such an acquisition would cost several billion dollars.

Outbid Apple

The current Apple vs. HTC battle, where Apple filed patent violations against Android-backed HTC, is being seen as the reason Google went in for this purchase.

Google’s failed attempt to outbid the Apple-led consortium for Nortels treasure chest of patents covering wireless technologies, among them crucial inventions related to fourth-generation cellular networks, is still a wonder.

The new patent deal is in line with Googles focus on snapping up patent portfolios left and right in creating adisincentive for others to sue Google,as notedon their official blog back in April.

Speaking to ArabianGazette, Mini, a tech analyst inDubai, commented on the announcement,” It is evident Google is trying to safeguard its position against any potential threat with regards to Android OS. Well thought-of, but there always ways to overstep these, especially by people looking for infringement claims.”

Sources: Dawn, WSJ, ibtimes, economictimes, 9to5mac, webjives

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