We all thought it was over, thought we were past it, but we were oh so wrong. The patent wars have returned in full force and this time the patent trolls are more well equipped than they ever have been before. After Nortel went bankrupt in 2009, their patent portfolio of over 6,000 patents went up for sale to the highest bidder in 2011. That bidder was the “Rockstar Consortium” which is made up by Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Ericsson and Sony. This group of companies has officially filed suit against Google and a host of companies that manufacture Android devices. This is a patent war.
Google understood the threat of this portfolio of patents getting into the hands of groups like Rockstar. Google did bid on the patents, offering up $4.4 billion dollars for it, but the Rockstar group offered $4.5 and eventually ended up winning. Not too long after losing out on Nortel patents, Motorola was purchased by Google, which many believed was a way to secure themselves a large swath of patents.
Google is not the only one under attack however. Samsung, HTC, ASUS, LG, Pantech, Huawei and ZTE are all focused in this new attack on Android. The patents in question for most of these companies are archaic ones, coming from the late 90’s and early 2000’s with vague terms like “navigation tool for graphical user interface” and “integrated message center” being used to describe whole patents. With language like this, Rockstar could take the whole tech world for a ride which Rockstar’s CEO, John Veschi admitted as much, “Pretty much anyone out there is infringing.” The best part about this whole story, is that Rockstar believes that the companies that comprise it, are not infringing on the patents that they are suing everyone else over. Veschi said “We are separate. That does not apply to us.”
So fasten your seatbelts, because this patent showdown will most likely be the biggest one we have seen yet. This could be the “thermonuclear war” that the late Steve Jobs promised to carry out against Android. We will have to see how Google and Android responds.