Letter from AmeriKat II: Good Day Sunshine (patents)

Google's $900 million bid for Nortel's patents

Last Monday Google announced a bid to buy almost 6000 patents and patent applications from Nortel, the bankrupt Canadian telecoms equipment manufacturer, for $900 million. The patents include patents for wireless, internet and social platform technologies. The bid comes as part of Google's strategy to shield itself from patent litigation. The thinking is that if you buy enough patents that cover a wide and diverse range of technologies and industries, you may have a patent in your legal arsenal that may have otherwise been used against you. Google currently possess a comparatively weak patent portfolio in comparison to their market share and expansion into mobile operating systems, especially in relation to android-related technology. Readers may recall that Oracle sued Google last fall for patent infringement of its Java patents by Google's open-source android operating system. (District Judge Alsup, who is presiding over the case, last week received a tutorial in Java. Also, for a fun trade secret case involving HP and Oracle see this recent news here)

Although it was reported that other tech companies were expected to make bids for Nortel's patents, there may be few that can beat Google's incredibly high bid. On Monday, Google's general counsel and Senior VP Kent Walker(picture, left) wrote on Google's blog that

"... 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.

So after a lot of thought, we’ve decided to bid for Nortel’s patent portfolio in the company’s bankruptcy auction. Today, Nortel selected our bid as the “stalking-horse bid," which is the starting point against which others will bid prior to the auction. If successful, we hope this portfolio will not only create a disincentive for others to sue Google, but also help us, our partners and the open source community—which is integrally involved in projects like Android and Chrome—continue to innovate. In the absence of meaningful reform, we believe it's the best long-term solution for Google, our users and our partners."
The planned sale of Nortel's patent portfolio must first beapproved by judges overseeing Nortel's bankruptcy cases in the US and in Canada. As reported by Bloomberg, anyone planning to beat Google's offer has to beat it by at least $25 million more than Google's initial offer, or at last count, $5 million more than the last offer. Anyone have $905 million to spare? The AmeriKat wonders what the return on investment is on purchasing a patent portfolio which with patents and/or applications that will have only about 20 or so years of life in them? Will Google ever make back theri $905 million on savings to legal fees or from patent damages? Or does that even matter as long as Google is sending a message to would-be plaintiffs that their patent portfolio is now robust, so sue at your peril? What do readers think?

US and UK unite for some more sweet patent harmony

David Kappos's UK harmonization tour last week not only yielded a Monday morning breakfast at UCL, but progress on the UK and US's joint action plan to combat the problem of patent backlogs and their effects. The joint announcement was made by Kappos and Baroness Wilcox, (compare the IP experience) Kappos stated that:
“The joint action plan highlights that while 21st century patent challenges are global in scope, so too are their solutions. Work sharing is a powerful tool that equips examiners to extract value from our skilled colleagues in other patent offices. By reducing redundant workloads and chipping away at the backlog, we can collaborate to unleash millions of jobs lying in wait and breathe life into our economies.”

The action plan is designed to allow an examiner in one office the ability to reuse work already done by an examiner in the other office on a corresponding applications, as much as possible to avoid duplication of work.

Kappos was also interviewed by The American Lawyer recently regarding the recent patent reforms (read interview here) and the America Invents Act (see recent AmeriKat posts here). When asked whether he thought it was that the House would pass a similar bill, Kappos replied:

I am off-the-charts optimistic.
The AmeriKat loves the enthusiasm.
Letter from AmeriKat II: Good Day Sunshine (patents) Letter from AmeriKat II:  Good Day Sunshine (patents) Reviewed by Annsley Merelle Ward on Sunday, April 10, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. "The action plan is designed to allow an examiner in one office the ability to reuse work already done by an examiner in the other office on a corresponding applications, as much as possible to avoid duplication of work."

    Err. . . Isn't this what happens anyway? At the very least it seems that half the art rejections from USPTO, EP0, JPO, SIPO etc. examiners are a re-hash of another office's rejections in the corresponding application in that country. Still, with all this re-using of each others work, would it be crazy to ask whether the fees will be reduced?

  2. Does anyone know the average age of these Nortel patents and the average remaining period of validity in key jurisdictions?

  3. Another way to look at it is as an offensive move by Google. In one transaction they potentially become the largest patent troll (or non-manufacturing patent licensing entity to use one of the non-pejorative names) on the planet.

  4. Google and Nortel probably do.

    Joking aside, it shouldn't be too hard to work out from the various online databases. Might take you a while though.


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