Apple/Microsoft Consortium Sues Google, Samsung Over Nortel Patents

The Rockstar Consortium group which purchased former Canadian company Nortel’s patents for $4.5 billion has now pursued lawsuits against seven companies that make Android smartphones: Google, Samsung, Huawei, HTC, LG, Pantech and ZTE, reports Reuters:

“Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe,” the lawsuit said.

Rockstar is seeking increased damages against Google, as it claims Google’s patent infringement is willful, according to the complaint.

The Google case in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas is Rockstar Consortium US LP and Netstar Technologies LLC vs. Google, 13-893.

The Rockstar consortium is jointly led by Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Ericsson and Sony. The group has accused Google of infringing on seven patents, which cover internet search and advertising, according to the lawsuit.

Google lost out to Rockstar in 2011 for Nortel’s patents and eventually acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, mainly for its vast library of patents. Google CEO Larry Page at the time said the acquisition would “enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”

ArsTechnica has called the Rockstar Consortium the perfect example of patent “privateering”:

When Wired visited Rockstar’s Ontario headquarters, it found 10 reverse-engineering experts, working daily to take apart products and find patent infringement.

With just a few dozen employees, Rockstar is hoping to convince more than 100 technology companies to pay it patent licensing fees for a huge array of products. “Pretty much anyone out there is infringing,” said Rockstar’s CEO, John Veschi.

The Rockstar Consortium may be the ultimate example of patent “privateering”—when big companies hand off their patents to small shell companies to do the dirty work of suing their competitors. Essentially, it’s patent trolling gone corporate.

FOSS Patents has more coverage of the lawsuits and paints a dark image for Google, with emphasis on the latter’s bidding up of Nortel’s patents in 2011, then dropping out:

Its highest bid, as is now documented in a publicly-accessible court filing, was $4.4 billion — then it dropped out, Rockstar won, and Google later, in panic mode, wasted $12.5 billion on the acquisition of Motorola Mobility, over whose patents Google currently has precisely zero (you know, the number that looks like the letter O) enforceable injunctions in place against its rivals on a worldwide basis and whose video codec and WiFi patents entitle it to less than $2 million a year in royalties from Microsoft.

Google earlier today released Android 4.4 KitKat and also debuted the Nexus 5.