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Google Enlarges Warchest With 1023 IBM Patents 245

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-it-on-the-pile dept.
First time accepted submitter ElBeano writes "Google has continued to beef up its patent portfolio in the face of the onslaught from Apple and Microsoft. The best defense is a good offense. 'Google is building an arsenal of patents that the company has said is largely designed to counter a "hostile, organized campaign" by companies including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. against the Android operating system for mobile devices. Google had already acquired 1,030 patents from IBM in a transaction recorded in July, and will obtain more than 17,000 with its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.'"
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Google Enlarges Warchest With 1023 IBM Patents

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  • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @09:56PM (#37405766)

    1023? That is a suspiciously round number...

  • Google takes these patents subject to existing cross licenses. How many competitors (such as Apple and MS) already have cross licenses with IBM that cover these?
    • Google takes these patents subject to existing cross licenses. How many competitors (such as Apple and MS) already have cross licenses with IBM that cover these?

      I'm quite sure there is a clause in the cross licencing that if you take legal action the licencing agreement is null and void.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Google takes these patents subject to existing cross licenses. How many competitors (such as Apple and MS) already have cross licenses with IBM that cover these?

      Interesting! But... what a cross-licensing agreement is good for if the cross-licensor still attacks you?
      (is it any different from having the patent war-chest without any cross-licensing?)

      • Re:Cross licenses? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @12:15AM (#37406462)

        Cross licensing gets rid of the concept of one party still attacking another for the most part. Party A sues Party B: result Party A either gets money or Party B has to stop doing what they are doing. However if Party B has its own trove of patents, the idea of cross licensing comes through by Party B telling Party A "Hey, if you don't back that lawsuit off, we will sue you for patents x, y and z." At that point both parties are pretty much in a stalemate - so they agree that Party A can use patents x, y and z while Party B holds off suing them.

        Both parties will pretty much want to keep doing what they are doing, so they rattle their sabres for a while until an equilibrium is reached with the patents.

        If (like in this case) one of the parties is new to the group or bought up a bunch of patents, they can still be attacked - but they already know what their patents are worth to the other companies - they were likely already using them as part of some agreement previously. If they still get sued, they (as the new patent owners) can revoke previous agreements allowing the other companies use of their patents. If this happens, then basically the whole things starts from the beginning of this post until an equilibrium is reached.

  • Software (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @10:13PM (#37405872)
    I think what's really stupid about software patents is that you can't find out what part of your software is infringing on another company's patents. That's the idiotic part. Hardware patents, of course. Samsung can learn immediately what Apple's specific complaints are. But software patents remain hidden, so that Google can't go back and change whatever code is infringing on their competitor. You don't even need to get rid of patents. Just get rid of this ridiculous veil of secrecy garbage.
    • by swillden (191260)

      I think what's really stupid about software patents is that you can't find out what part of your software is infringing on another company's patents.

      Sure you can. It's a huge amount of work, and generally not worth the effort, but it's certainly possible. And it's no different from hardware patents in that regard. What makes you think they're different?

      • >Sure you can. It's a huge amount of work, and generally not worth the effort, but it's certainly possible

        It is also, legally speaking, a very bad idea. If you do research into patents you may infringe and miss one, then that research can be taken as evidence that you should have found what you missed. This makes you potentially liable for willfull infringement. The penalties of which are much higher.
        It is actually (especially if you're an indy coder) a very good idea to not do any checks for patent infr

        • by swillden (191260)

          Yep. Which is why attorneys always tell software engineers NOT to search for infringing patents. Odds are that you'll find plenty if you look, and that there's really no point in working around them because they'll never come up in a lawsuit... but if you looked, and you didn't fix or license, then you're willfully infringing and are liable for treble damages. All in all, it's better just not to look and to build up a big defensive portfolio in case you get sued.

          All of which just shows how badly broken

    • Everything about software patents is really stupid.

      They make it impossible for a small software company to be successful, because when it grows it will get sued and stand no chance. In the long run software patents mean that a small quasi-monopolistic cartel of large companies can control what software is produced. Either your with them by signing their contracts / selling your company, or you'll perish.

      Software patents need to be stopped entirely. They do NOT work and stiffle innovation.

  • So when do they expire ? why are they selling ? after all IBM makes a lot from the research it did and licensing of said patents
    • Re:IBM is Selling (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kagetsuki (1620613) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @10:34PM (#37405996)

      "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." They can pass the patents to Google and let Google take the heat and fight the fight and they can generally stay out of it - for them that's good. Besides, this will surely strengthen the Google-IBM relationship and I'm sure there were other terms and conditions set out on the transfer that will be beneficial to IBM.

      It should further be noted that IBM has actually taken patents for things and allowed totally free use simply to prevent anyone from controlling some fundamental technology. As far as patents go they seem like the good guys.

      • It should further be noted that IBM has actually taken patents for things and allowed totally free use simply to prevent anyone from controlling some fundamental technology. As far as patents go they seem like the good guys.

        I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, they seem to be fairly well behaved when it comes to software patents; you don't see IBM going out and trying to put its competitors out of business by threatening them with patent injunctions. (Although there was that one time [arstechnica.com].)

        At the same time, I have to wonder how much of that is just circumstance. IBM is one of the strong proponents of the scourge of software patents outside of the patent lawyers who don't want to lose their jobs. And when you think abo

      • Re:IBM is Selling (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @12:12AM (#37406442) Journal
        IBM is absolutely not on the good side when it comes to patents, they are on their own side. You will never see IBM make any move unless somewhere someone has calculated that it will make them profit. And they are very, very good at making that calculation, which is why they are still in business a hundred years later. Guaranteed Google paid them for these patents, more than they are worth to IBM, and that's why they got them.

        IBM is not on the good side of the patent war. They make millions every year on patents alone. They nearly sued SUN into the ground, among other patents, for a patent on drawing a line. [forbes.com] Here is a quote by an IBM lawyer:

        "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"

        IBM likes their patents.

        • Reminded me of IBM's siding with Oracle against Apache on the Java licensing dispute and backing OpenJDK. Then publicly lauding Oracle for putting Open Office under an Apache licence despite the disruption this would cause to the Document Foundation and Libre Office.

          • by thejynxed (831517)

            That's because it would then allow IBM to incorporate any improvements more quickly into Lotus (competitor to both OO and LO) while at the same time slowing down improvements to LO (because they would have to delay even longer to review, improve, and approve any of the new stuff) and simultaneously giving them (IBM) and Oracle a way to muscle things where the Document Foundation is concerned.

            That entire situation was "I scratch your back, you scratch mine."

        • by Nyder (754090)

          ...Here is a quote by an IBM lawyer:

          "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"

          IBM likes their patents.

          Wow, the mobs should be proud of that lawyer.

  • I don't understand why Google and Apple don't just sit down and agree to let each other use all their patents. Then they really could compete on the strength of their own innovations, rather than wasting all this money on lawyers. The customers will go to the one who implements the patents better.

    • by bws111 (1216812) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @10:48PM (#37406058)

      Because prior to Google buying the IBM and Motorola patents they had nothing to offer. Why would Apple (or Microsoft, or Samsung, or anyone else) let Google just use their patents when Google has nothing of value to offer them? That is just throwing away money. Now that Google has something to offer they are in a better position to make such a deal.

      • That makes sense. Now that Google has all these patents, do you think it will go down that way (cross-licensing)?

      • Maybe because Google lets them create search engines, for example, without bullying anyone with patents. Using patents to protect your lack of innovation and new ideas is simply evil. Google was never desperate enough so far.
      • by Xest (935314)

        "Because prior to Google buying the IBM and Motorola patents they had nothing to offer. Why would Apple (or Microsoft, or Samsung, or anyone else) let Google just use their patents when Google has nothing of value to offer them? That is just throwing away money. Now that Google has something to offer they are in a better position to make such a deal."

        Yes, it's not that Google lacks really good patents, it's just that those really good patents are in things like search.

        The issue is that companies are using p

    • by tyrione (134248)

      I don't understand why Google and Apple don't just sit down and agree to let each other use all their patents. Then they really could compete on the strength of their own innovations, rather than wasting all this money on lawyers. The customers will go to the one who implements the patents better.

      Patents are part of the strengths of their own innovations. Or do you not get the point of innovation and patenting said innovation?

    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      I don't understand why Google and Apple don't just sit down and agree to let each other use all their patents.

      ..because such a deal wouldnt apply to manufacturers of Android or iOS devices other than specifically Google and Apple. Such a deal doesnt help the HTC's of the world.

      You do understand this stuff, right? ..well... perhaps now.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @10:37PM (#37406014)
    I have a feeling that if I were to make my own cell phone from scratch, without looking at a single patent and using only obvious ideas off the top of my head, I'd owe a lot of people a lot of money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bws111 (1216812)

      Yes, you can do that now, and you consider it obvious, because you have used a cell phone. You have used/seen different types of cell phones. You doubtless have read countless articles on how they work. You know what components are used in them.

      Now, go back 30 years and tell us that you could have come up with a Droid or iPhone then. Not just a general idea (little handheld-device that lets you do things), but an actual, working, Droid or iPhone or equivalent. Remember, there were no Li-ion batteries,

      • by Sabriel (134364) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:19AM (#37406772)

        I suspect there's a "Whoosh" floating around your post.

        GP is, I believe, referring to how the patent system fails to allow for innovations that are simultaneously developed independently, whether by complete strangers or by peers known to each other in their field.

        go back 30 years

        We can go back much further than that. Examples of concurrent independent development abound. To paraphrase an excerpt from this article [newyorker.com]: Calculus - Newton and Leibniz. Evolution - Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace. Oxygen - Carl Wilhelm and Joseph Priestley. Colour photos - Charles Cros and Louis du Hauron. Logarithms - John Napier, Henry Briggs, Joost Burgi. Sunspots - Fabricius, Galileo, Harriott, Scheiner. Piston engine plane - the Wright brothers and Santos Dumont. And so and so on.

        It is a very strange belief that a bureaucracy enforcing the exclusive profit of singular entities within a society of billions of creative individuals will somehow ultimately encourage innovation to flourish, rather than stifle it.

        Patents dictate that the fruits of your labors are not yours to trade as you wish, if any stranger you never met and never knew "invented" those fruits "first".

        The only true benefit of patents is that they document the specifics of innovation, and this aspect does not actually require any grant of exclusivity.

        • I suspect there's a "Whoosh" floating around your post.

          GP is, I believe, referring to how the patent system fails to allow for innovations that are simultaneously developed independently, whether by complete strangers or by peers known to each other in their field.

          go back 30 years

          We can go back much further than that. Examples of concurrent independent development abound. To paraphrase an excerpt from this article [newyorker.com]: Calculus - Newton and Leibniz. Evolution - Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace. Oxygen - Carl Wilhelm and Joseph Priestley. Colour photos - Charles Cros and Louis du Hauron. Logarithms - John Napier, Henry Briggs, Joost Burgi. Sunspots - Fabricius, Galileo, Harriott, Scheiner. Piston engine plane - the Wright brothers and Santos Dumont. And so and so on.

          It is a very strange belief that a bureaucracy enforcing the exclusive profit of singular entities within a society of billions of creative individuals will somehow ultimately encourage innovation to flourish, rather than stifle it.

          Patents dictate that the fruits of your labors are not yours to trade as you wish, if any stranger you never met and never knew "invented" those fruits "first".

          Sure, but that concept has always existed in property law, going back to Pierson v. Post. The first to possess something has ownership of it, regardless of the fact that the second person "worked really hard".

          I think you misunderstand the point of the patent system. It's not a reward for hard work. It's a monopoly right, grudgingly paid for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure. As a result, "the fruits of your labors" are irrelevant - the important point is whether you disclosed those labors.
          T

      • by t2t10 (1909766)

        Now, go back 30 years and tell us that you could have come up with a Droid or iPhone then. Not just a general idea (little handheld-device that lets you do things), but an actual, working, Droid or iPhone or equivalent. Remember, there were no Li-ion batteries, no touch displays, no GSM, no ARM processors.

        Except that Apple didn't invent any of those things. Apple didn't invent high powered batteries, or magnets, or touch screens, or multitasking, or GUIs, or outdoors LCDs, or browsers, or even phone number

        • by Pieroxy (222434)

          All Apple ever did was copy other people's ideas and stick them into shiny boxes.

          So you're basically saying Apple's success is only due to their shiny boxes? I sincerely hope you don't believe that, or you've missed the entire picture. It looks as if you have nothing to do in an Apple-related thread. As someone said, nothing's worse than Apple fanbois. Except Apple haters.

          I'll fix it for you then:

          All Apple ever did was copy other people's ideas and stick them into usable boxes.

          Because with the iPhone, for the first time, my grandma was able to use SMS, email, Maps, etc... That's an achievement that prior to the iPhone I though could not be done. Ever.

        • by bws111 (1216812)

          I didn't say Apple invented anything. Who invented the stuff is immaterial. The topic of the thread was 'do patents encourage innovation', not 'look what Apple has invented'.

          The OP was putting forth the ridiculous premise that just because he could build his own cell phone, it was somehow proof that there is nothing innovative in cell phones, therefore patents are useless. He (and a lot of other people on this thread) conveniently ignore the thousands and thousands of innovations (mostly patented) that

      • by Kjella (173770)

        To get from where we were 30 years ago to where we are now took thousands and thousands of innovations, damn near all of them patented. So yes, undeniably patents encourage innovation.

        Where exactly is this "undeniable" causality? Wouldn't anybody be interested in selling me a better phone without patents? How many innovations were blocked by patents? If I invent something I probably would take out a patent, because the system makes those very valuable both to defend with, cross-license and sell. But it is much like paying protection money to the Mafia, it doesn't mean a corrupt system is good only that you make the best of it.

        There's no causality between "Most businesses pay protection m

  • by voss (52565) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @10:48PM (#37406064)

    Id also buyout Kodak...then tell Apple they have remove cameras from their iphones :)

  • Highway to Hell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @11:09PM (#37406172) Homepage Journal

    Those of you who still believe there is value to "Intellectual Property", can you please think about where this "Patent Race" is leading us?

    We've probably passed the point where any new product or innovation is safe from having an army of lawyers descend to destroy it.

    Now tell me how patents "encourage innovation". Tell me how patents "protect innovators".

    When the patent portfolios of a handful of the biggest corporations reaches critical mass, there won't be a single inventor or innovator who is safe or whose ideas are protected. It will stifle innovation in a much worse way than any "counterfeiting" or "piracy" ever could. There's a good chance that we've already reached that point.

    No, I don't believe there is any longer a single valid argument for "intellectual property" laws, of any kind. Not trademark, not copyright, and certainly not patents.

    • Uh....trademark is good. It keeps people from selling things in your name. It let's people know who you are. Are there abuses? Yes, but your reactionary response is dumb.
      • by trout007 (975317)

        Passing off products claiming they are made by one company when they are not is covered by fraud laws.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          And trademark law provides opportunity to determine what is and is not fraud when talking about trademarks. Glad we could clear that up here today.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      And if the copyright lobby is any example, once that critical mass is reached you can bet that patent lifetimes are going to be expanded in the same way.

      Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and heaven forbid Google will become the new Disneys.

  • Does the patent war strike anyone else as being very similar to the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.?

    "Look at us! Metaphorically-speaking, that is, because we don't want you looking too closely! We have lots of non-specific weapons we will never use because they would do as much damage to us as they would to you! We can't tell you exactly which of your assets they threaten, but just know that we have more of whatever we have than you have of whatever you have! So don't even think about
    • Except all the other little countries cannot get anything done because the giants would crush them, and the giants can't be bothered to get anything new done because there is no incentive

      At Least the Cold War fostered a technology race between them ....

  • by mwvdlee (775178)

    1023 patents, 17000 patents... with numbers like these, how many of those could possibly be inventions actually worthy of patent protection?
    Any company that can publish more than, say, 1 patent per month, hasn't put in the effort or investment that patents are supposed to protect.

  • Wasn't IBM the owner of the Jet Powered Surfboard Patent [google.com]? I wonder if that was included in the deal...
  • It seems like Google is getting the short end of the stick here. The patents involved (listed here: http://assignments.uspto.gov/assignments/q?db=pat&reel=026894&frame=0001 [uspto.gov]) all appear to expire within the next 5 years or so. It looks like IBM is just dumping soon-to-be-worthless patents.

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