Google Sued by Holding Company Backed by Microsoft and Apple

Google is getting sued by the consortium of companies that bought Nortel's intellectual property two years ago.

Rockstar Consortium, which bought Nortel Network's patents for $4.5 billion in 2011, filed a lawsuit (PDF) on Thursday, alleging willful infringement of seven patents. All of the patents are associated with search-advertising technologies, but clearly it's another shot in the so-called "mobile platform wars."

Plano, Texas-based Rockstar isn't just any patent holding company. It consists of Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion and Sony. Those companies pooled their resources to defeat Google's initial bid of $900 million for the Nortel patents. Google's final bid before losing the auction to Rockstar was $4.4 billion, according to the lawsuit. In reaction, Google bought patents from IBM, as well as Motorola Mobility's patents.

Rockstar signaled early last year that it intended to collect royalties on its newly acquired Nortel patents. The company essentially acts as a patent troll, according to an Ars Technica article, because it claims to be independent of its coalition companies. That circumstance may make it harder for Google to claim patent infringements in turn, since Rockstar is just a holding company. Rockstar has a lab devoted to reverse-engineering software to spot potential patent violations, according to the article.

The lawsuit against Google by Rockstar perhaps marks yet another phase in mobile platform litigation. The mobile computing segment is fast growing, and so companies with a stake in it are acting to secure market share by pushing their search-advertising and operating system technologies. What can't be accomplished in that sphere is getting carved out in the form of seemingly nonstop litigation.

So far, the mobile platform wars have been indirect. Players such as Apple and Microsoft have sued hardware companies (and even their partners) over alleged software patent infringements. The target has been the Linux-based Android operating system, fostered by Google, which is the most widespread mobile OS in use to date. Android held 52.4 percent of the smartphone market in August, followed by Apple iOS (39.2 percent), RIM BlackBerry (4.8 percent) and Microsoft's mobile OSes (3.0 percent), according to results tabulated by comScore.

Part of the appeal of Android to hardware manufacturers is that it is available to them royalty free, which may account, in part, for Android's proliferation. Now, with the initiation of Rockstar's lawsuit, the larger players in the mobile platform wars appear to be suing each other directly.

Rockstar's lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a venue that's very friendly to patent infringement claims. Microsoft itself lost a patent infringement case in that district in 2009 that was filed by Toronto-based i4i LP.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


  • Surface and ARM: Why Microsoft Shouldn't Follow Apple's Lead and Dump Intel

    Microsoft's current Surface flagship, the Surface Pro X, already runs on ARM. But as the ill-fated Surface RT showed, going all-in on ARM never did Microsoft many favors.

  • IT Security Isn't Supposed To Be Easy

    Joey explains why it's worth it to endure a little inconvenience for the long-term benefits of a password manager and multifactor authentication.

  • Microsoft Makes It Easier To Self-Provision PCs via Windows Autopilot When VPNs Are Used

    Microsoft announced this week that the Windows Autopilot service used with Microsoft Intune now supports enrolling devices, even in cases where virtual private networks (VPNs) might get in the way.

  • Most Microsoft Retail Locations To Shut Down

    Microsoft is pivoting its retail operations to focus more on online sales, a plan that would mean the closing of most physical Microsoft Store locations.

comments powered by Disqus

Office 365 Watch

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.