Google girds for battle in wake of Apple's legal victory

Aug 31, 2012 by Jessica Guynn

Google Inc. bought ailing mobile device maker Motorola Mobility this year to stockpile patents for the war that was heating up with rival Apple Inc.

But those patents may not be much help in defending challenges to its mobile operating system in the wake of Apple's sweeping courtroom victory last week over .

Experts said that probably would unsheathe the 17,000 patents it picked up in the $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility but that Google still would be outmatched.

"In theory, the Motorola patents do matter because they give Google some leverage against Apple," UCLA law professor Douglas Lichtman said. But even so, he said, it's "not an even fight."

"Motorola was not Apple's complete peer before its acquisition, and so owning Motorola does not make Google a complete peer today," Lichtman said.

On Friday, a jury awarded Apple more than $1 billion in one of the nation's largest patent verdicts, siding almost entirely with Apple in finding that Samsung had infringed six of seven patents by copying the look and feel of Apple's .

Google was not named in that lawsuit, but that's who Apple is gunning for in dozens of regulatory and legal actions around the globe.

Just weeks before it's expected to unveil its next , Apple is ramping up its war against the more popular Android, the that Google gives away without charge to mobile device makers.

The two technology giants are locked in a bruising battle to dominate the lucrative and tablet markets. Apple has not sued Google, which generates most of its revenue from online advertising. Instead, Apple has attacked the search giant by going after device makers.

Friday's verdict sent shivers through the wireless world.

Apple, which is the world's most valuable company, has made more than $156 billion in iPhone-related revenue since 2007. And now it has powerful ammunition against smartphone makers who use Android software.

Device manufacturers basing their wireless technology on Android may be forced to rethink their products under the rising threat of patent litigation. And that could slow Android's runaway success, analysts said.

Google said Sunday that most of the infringing patents "don't relate to the core Android operating system." But analysts tracking the case said the giant jury verdict hit an Android bull's-eye. Samsung said it would ask the trial judge to overturn the verdict or it would appeal.

"This verdict is a major victory for Apple vis-a-vis the Android ecosystem," said Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at research firm Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "We believe this is unambiguously negative for Google and the Android ecosystem."

Samsung is the quintessential Android success story. The Google software has helped catapult the South Korean electronics company into the No. 1 spot in the phone market.

In a court filing Monday, Apple urged U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh to ban the sale in the U.S. of eight models of Samsung's Galaxy smartphones. Koh has scheduled a hearing next month to consider Apple's request. The models aren't the company's most recent, but Apple has another federal court lawsuit pending against Samsung in San Jose over more recent devices.

The drama unfolded just miles from Apple's campus in Cupertino, Calif., and Google's campus in Mountain View, Calif. The onetime allies are now adversaries, their solidarity shredded by their competing ambitions for smartphones and tablets.

Analyst Douglas Anmuth at JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s research unit estimated that Android's market share is approaching 60 percent of smartphone shipments.

Toward the end of his life, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, outraged that Android phones offered features he claimed Apple invented, became obsessed with crushing Android. "I'm going to destroy Android because it's a stolen product," Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson.

But analysts said Friday's verdict did not strike a fatal blow. Device makers may have to go back to the drawing board to modify features that infringe Apple's patents or brainstorm new ones, but that is unlikely to delay new products significantly or undercut their appeal with consumers.

"We don't think it is a game-changing loss for Android," Sacconaghi said.

But it will cause headaches for Google, said analyst Charles Wolf at research and investment banking firm Needham & Co.

"The bad news for Android licensees is that the three patents represent but a handful of the patents in Apple's arsenal. We anticipate Apple will assert many of these reportedly even more powerful patents in future cases against Android licensees," Wolf said. "Google will be forced to design work-arounds of the violated software patents, which was the intent of Apple's lawsuit."

When Google bought Motorola Mobility in May, the cellphone maker had fallen behind its largest competitors, Apple and Samsung. Google, considered to have an anemic patent portfolio, seized on the opportunity to scoop up Motorola's patents.

But Macquarie Securities Group analyst Ben Schachter said it's unclear how effective the patents would be in coming battles.

"The verdict does remind us that the value of Google's Motorola Mobility remains very much an open question. Thus far, and it is clearly still early, we have yet to see any meaningful evidence that Google's acquisition of Motorola's (intellectual property) can protect various players in the Android ecosystem," Schachter said.

Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner agreed, saying Motorola was "a notoriously weak software developer. He noted that "a lot of the patents that Apple has cited are exactly in that weak spot."

Rutgers University law professor Michael Carrier said the patents will be helpful "in the sense that Google now can claim that has infringed its patents."

"In the patent war, the mere possession of , even if they aren't valid or the strongest around, is crucial," Carrier said.

Explore further: Amazon pushes Prime service with day of deals

Related Stories

Microsoft reaches licensing deal on HTC phones

Apr 28, 2010

(AP) -- Microsoft Corp. says it has patents covering phones that use Google Inc.'s Android software - but unlike Apple Inc., Microsoft has reached a licensing deal rather than suing over the software.

HTC accuses Apple of patent infringement

Aug 16, 2011

Taiwan's HTC Corp. accused Apple of patent infringement on Tuesday in the latest salvo in an ongoing legal battle between the smartphone giants.

Recommended for you

Amazon pushes Prime service with day of deals

17 hours ago

Amazon is trying to lure more subscribers to its $99 Prime loyalty program by pushing a day of discounts it calls "Prime Day" during the sleepier summer shopping season.

Mexico City proposes regulations for Uber

Jul 04, 2015

Mexico City is proposing regulations that would allow Uber and other smartphone-based ride-sharing apps to operate, while requiring drivers and cars to be registered, the city's Office of Legal and Legislative Studies said ...

Shyp reclassifies contract couriers as employees

Jul 03, 2015

Shyp, the quickly growing startup that provides on-demand courier services, said Wednesday it would reclassify its contract workers as employees, becoming the latest high-profile tech company to change how it compensates ...

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3 / 5 (4) Aug 31, 2012
Wow... Just wow... I think this author sleeps snuggled up to an iPad at night.
There is an avalanche of evidence that the jury misstepped and that the case was not treated in a balanced manner. Maybe next time do more research before spewing opinion?

The verdict will be over turned. And Google itself had it's own sufficient supply of patents before it acquired all Motorola patents and also IBM patents.

This author should be kept off this topic.
5 / 5 (3) Aug 31, 2012
It's all bull shit. Technology should be allowed to advance on it's own volition, at it's own speed, and under it's own rules just through open innovation and not be held back by a few currency drugged, power inoculated, humanity starved, narcissists prodded on by lawyers who have the same mental disorders. They're all just a... just... puffywuffys! I can't think of anything bad enough, had to make something up.
5 / 5 (7) Aug 31, 2012
Once you get to patenting gestures such as "Swipe to Unlock" or "Rectangles with Rounded Corners" then the patent industry has jumped the Shark. Rather than throwing it out though (it may need to be trimmed a little), I suggest that the Patent Office simply stop giving out completely moronic patents. They are meant to be experts in issuing patents... can the moron that oked those ones not see exactly where it was going to end up?

Gadgets... sure.
Processes... sure.
Software... well... maybe...
Gestures, shapes, genomes, patents of things that are already broadly in use... complete fucking lunacy.

The Patent Office is completely to blame for this.
5 / 5 (6) Aug 31, 2012
As for the Jury... OMG.
Didn't. Even. Read. Their. Instructions.

Very useful summary by Groklaw from multiple sources:

I recommend you have a look at it.
While the case itself was a stupid exercise in patent trolling and non-competitive practices, the jury has it beat for sheer idiocy.

Not even Microsoft is/was as anti-competitive as Apple has become. Sad.
not rated yet Sep 01, 2012
If you violate someone's software patent, you might be required to disable and eventually replace the offending bits of your software.
If you violate someone's hardware patent, you might be required to disable your hardware (as that can be done remotely) and eventually replace it. As a corporation, you would be hurt much more if you had to take this action. Replacement takes much longer and is much much more expensive. And meanwhile, lots of bad publicity.

Apple builds lots of hardware. Much more than Google.
not rated yet Sep 02, 2012
If you violate someone's software patent, you might be required to disable and eventually replace the offending bits of your software.
If you violate someone's hardware patent, you might be required to disable your hardware (as that can be done remotely) and eventually replace it. As a corporation, you would be hurt much more if you had to take this action. Replacement takes much longer and is much much more expensive. And meanwhile, lots of bad publicity.

Apple builds lots of hardware. Much more than Google.

So THAT's what happened to the Mac Pro line.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.