To Prevent Patent Trolling, Google Begins Lawsuit against Apple-led Rockstar

By Joe Rizzo December 26, 2013

We have gone through several patent infringement lawsuits lately. This is supposed to be the season of being of good cheer. However, on Christmas Eve Google announced that it is taking Rockstar to court.

Rockstar is a patent holding company. It is jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Sony and Ericsson. As the Verge puts it, Rockstar is a company “whose portfolio comes mostly from the corpse of bankrupt Canadian telecom giant Nortel.” In 2012, Rockstar purchased a number of patents from Nortel for around $4.5 billion.

Part of what has Google suing Rockstar is the fact that just a few months ago in October, Rockstar sued Google along with various other Android OEMs. Some of these companies include Samsung, HTC, Pantech and LG, just to mention a few. Rockstar alleged that the patents it acquired from Nortel were being infringed upon.

An interesting note to mention at this time is the fact that this seems to be all that Rockstar does. By that I mean it sues other companies for patent infringement. It doesn’t really seem to have any of its own operations, or produce any products and it doesn’t use the patents. Best as I can figure out, it either hasn’t been able to nor hasn’t even tried to license the patents it holds.

What Google’s lawsuit seems to boil down to is a couple of facts. One is that Rockstar hires Canadian engineers whose sole job is to scour the operations of other companies, looking for something that might infringe on its IP portfolio.

These engineers examine other company’s successful products to see if there is anything that Rockstar can use for patent infringement. This falls under the possible category of patent trolling. Although this term doesn’t appear in Google’s lawsuit, it has implications.

The other thing that Google claims is that Rockstar is only going after Android products. In Google’s filing this week, there is what looks like a two page section with eight paragraphs entitled “Rockstar’s Campaign against Android.” If you are one of those who enjoys reading legal filings, you can read the 13 page document by clicking here.

A lot of the patents that Rockstar currently has a hold of deal with basic smartphone functions like Mobile Hotspot Functionality and Messaging and Notification. This gives you an idea of how wide spread this could be. These a basic functions so you will find these on almost every smartphone out there.

Google is taking the stand that it is not only trying to protect the OEMs from legal attacks, it is also attempting to protect is flagship products. The lawyers are arguing the fact that while there may be some non-Android products that Rockstar could have also focused on, it only targeted Android devices.

It looks like Google is trying to help out a lot of companies that use the open source Android OS by saving them from having to waste financial resources as well as time, defending themselves in courtrooms.

According to one report, Rockstar may be getting desperate. After having spent $4.5 billion to acquire all of these patents, Apple and the rest of the alliance is not going to be happy if they have to write off a multi-billion dollar investment.

This will be something to keep an eye on to see just how it develops next year and what type of implications it might have for future lawsuits.

Edited by Ryan Sartor

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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