Google’s $12.5B Patent Insurance Policy

Last week I wrote about the growing patent battle between Google and a wide variety of foes, including Apple, Microsoft and Oracle. These companies have a common enemy – Google’s Android – and are willing go to enormous lengths to hamper Android’s growing dominance.

Today, Google announced it has taken out a $12.5B insurance policy against the threat of patent litigation by acquiring Motorola Mobility. While Motorola Mobility has a considerable business in mobile phones (it makes the popular Droid smartphone line), Google’s announcement makes it clear the acquisition was all about the 14,600 granted and 6,700 pending patents in Motorola’s portfolio.

With Motorola’s patents in hand, Google has significantly bolstered its otherwise weak patent portfolio. As with nuclear weapons in the cold war, these companies’massive patent portfolios serve no useful purpose other than to serve as a deterrent: if you sue me with your patents, I’ll sue you with mine.

Will Google give up on its efforts to effect change in the US Patent Office now that it has joined other patent superpowers, including Apple, Microsoft, and RIM, in a game of mutually assured destruction?


  1. Perhaps a purchase of that sort wasn’t a suprise to industry insiders given that Google lost out in the Nortel patent’s auction to a consortium involving Apple, Microsoft, Rim and others.

    This July 1 Globe & Mail article about the Nortel patent auction states:

    Perhaps the biggest loser in the auction was Google, which Mr. Mueller noted is involved in about 45 different patent lawsuits related to its Android operating system for mobile devices. Unlike many of the other players in the wireless world, Google’s own stable of patents is small, and the company has only recently sought to better protect itself from patent litigation.