Nortel

Google has announced today via its blog that it has bid for Nortel's patent portfolio. They begin their blog post by chastising companies that use patents to stifle innovation and the current patent system in general. 

Here is the next paragraph:

But as things stand today, one of a company’s best defenses against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services. Google is a relatively young company, and although we have a growing number of patents, many of our competitors have larger portfolios given their longer histories.

Nortel is a communications giant that dates back to the 1800s, thus their patent portfolio must be enormous. Google's current bid was labeled as the "stalking-horse bid," which means that others wanting to bid for the portfolio will have to use its bid as the starting point. 

Google also mentioned the Android and Chrome projects specifically towards the end of its  post, citing the need to protect them as a main reason for bidding. 

Ideally, the patent system would undergo much needed reforms; until then, moves like this are the best defense against an onslaught of lawsuits. [Google blog]

 
There are 8 comments

icebike says:

I agree it would be a good defense for Google, but only for Google (if their bid is successful).

These patents aren't bringing in much revenue for Nortel (if they were, Nortel wouldn't be bankrupt). If they fall into the wrong hands (such as Apple) you can be sure they would start being used as clubs to beat the competition into submission.

The vast majority could probably be "open sourced" with no ill effect on anyone. This would be a great good faith gesture on the part of Google.

There are probably a much smaller subset that are current, and may actually provide a revenue stream from licenses. Some of these may need to be defended by the successful bidder if for no other reason than they may be in use in patent swap agreements, enabling the holder to use other companies patents.

There are obviously at least a dozen patents that Google knows Nortel has the rights to that would benefit Google. Hope this works out for thrm. Fire with fire.

etnpnys says:

They've been a communications giant since the 1800s? Really? That MUST BE some good patent portfolio.

jg274105 says:

I personally never heard of Nortel (Or if I did, it wasn't important enough to commit to memory). Good on Google for trying to protect themselves, and they could also license those relevant patents to manufacturers for some extra $ if need be.

But what I'm most impressed about... is Google coming out and blatantly saying that patent trolls are the cause of this. Hopefully (though unlikely) this can get some sort of ball rolling on some sort of reform.

likwidsoul says:

If you ask me google is sick of getting hit with mud and have decided to place themselves in a position to throw some back.

nobius says:

Patents expire in about 20 years, so being a company since the 1800s means nothing.

craigrn16 says:

It's about time Google got smart. They should've bid for palm when they had the chance and got their patents

Since Intellectual Ventures started suing, I now completely disbelieve the claims of any business entity that it is buying up patents for "defensive purposes only." However, even when it does inevitably start suing, Google will likely be able to evade the "patent troll" label (and thus take advantage of judicial preference for "practicing" entities over NPEs/PAEs), since it also engages in R&D. Clever.