This looks a little more serious than the standard everyone making a smartphone sues everyone else making a smartphone patent cases. While there are indeed smartphone patents flying around in this latest spat the really important part of it looks to me to be that Google is being sued over patents that link search results to the advertising that will be shown up on them. That is, of course, something that is at the heart of the entirety of Google’s money making abilities. It thus strikes to hte heart of what the company is about, not just at something that can be engineered around.
The basics of the case are here:
Rockstar, the consortium that bought the Nortel patents for $4.5 billion, sued Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, HTC Corp, Huawei and four other companies for patent infringement in U.S. District Court in Texas. Rockstar is jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson and Sony.
Google is accused of infringing seven patents. The patents cover technology that helps match Internet search terms with relevant advertising, the lawsuit said, which is the core of Google’s search business.
There’s a little misunderstanding here:
That transaction cleared the DOJ as the team agreed to license the tech on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, as well as their commitments not to seek injunctions in disputes involving SEPs.
No, that’s not quite was said. The DOJ actually said that the companies had agreed that those patents which were SEPs would continue to be licenced on FRAND terms. But obviously, those that were not standards essential did not need to be. And yes it is very much true that Google is now being sued over non-SEPs and thus cannot rely upon any insistence upon FRAND terms.
Florian Mueller has the background documents here and has helpfully listed the patents themselves:
Patents-in-suit against Google
U.S. Patent No. 6,098,065 on an “associative search engine”
U.S. Patent No. 7,236,969 on an “associative search engine”
U.S. Patent No. 7,469,245 on an “associative search engine”
U.S. Patent No. 7,672,970 on an “associative search engine”
U.S. Patent No. 7,895,178 on an “associative search engine”
U.S. Patent No. 7,895,183 on an “associative search engine”
U.S. Patent No. 7,933,883 on an “associative search engine”
There is one innovative argument being used in the case:
The complaint tries to use the fact that Google bid for the patents as an extra point against the search giant. “Google subsequently increased its bid multiple times, ultimately bidding as high as $4.4 billion,” write Rockstar’s lawyers. “That price was insufficient to win the auction, as a group led by the current shareholders of Rockstar purchased the portfolio for $4.5 billion. Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe the patents-in-suit.
Google cannot say that the patents are not valuable since they tried to bid for them themselves: ergo, they must be worth to Google at least what Google was willing to offer for them. Myself, if I were defending against this idea, I’d say that sure, but they also cannot be more valuable than what we were willing to pay for them either: and nor can they be more valuable than what was actually paid for them (this idea is being asserted in another patent suit right now: a patent cannot be worth more than Intellectual Ventures actually paid for it).
At least that argument would limit possible licence costs to the $4.4 billion or so figure. Yes, it’s a large sum but as against Google’s revenues it’s pretty small. Especially when you realise that that’s the maximum possible value of the patents over their 20 year life.
Now, obviously no one knows what’s going to happen next. Whether the patents will be upheld, whether Google is indeed violating them. This is conceptually different still from most of the other patent cases that are roaming around. If the patents are valid and Google is breaching them then there’s no real workaround possible: they’re too basic to what is at the heart of what Google does. Quite what happens next I’m not sure, as I say, but this could become expensive quite quickly for Google.
It’s a much more serious case than most of the other patent spats floating around.
Actually it’s not that I don’t like them, I just can’t justifying using one, They do everything you want – almost, and thats the problem the almost bit.
Let me explain:
If you look at what you use any form of IT for it falls into a few categories, work, play, research and presentations. You could argue that there is just work and play but that would sound like a Mars bar advert, especially if I put “Rest” in, but to me rest is sleep, not watching a film or TV, so I will go with my four groups.
is composing letters, working on spreadsheets, examining accounts and performances, dealing with staff, customer reationship management and of course email. Only the latter really works on a tablet, but then a smartphone is good too as you can write twitter-like immediate replies and leave the deep thought replies for the office, So I am afraid that my smartphone and Desk PC win that round.
But before we leave work lets see what a tablet does that a phone and desktop can’t do. If I was an insurance salesman, Estate agent or similar I can show you things on it. If you are medical or an engineer you can take it with you for viewing things and making comments. In meetings it’s good but as a consultant I need to keep eye contact, look at the client and make notes. For them it’s a tablet, for me pen and paper.
lets get this knocked on the head quickly, I don’t care how angry the birds are, I don’t play games, I watch TV and films on a wide screen with cinema surround sound, I don’t need a navigational system for boats, If I YouTube, Facebook then I need a keyboard or I use my phone. If I need to research on Google or Wikipedia then I need a keyboard, I am impatient and a non tactile tiny keyboards are not my friends.
This is for Google or finding things that pop in your mind when working. If I am watching a film then I immerse myself and don’t need to be tapping away, OK I know there is a picture of me using a laptop in the same room as the family were watching TV but I was being sociable, I was there and not enjoying the film, so I did some research to save the results on the server for later.
Yes I do them, yes I have to use PowerPoint but a). you need a mouse, keyboard and good screen to create it and b). You are stuffed when it goes wrong. My favourite pastime at 6:30 am business meetings, apart from the breakfast, is seeing people reading from a tablet and then rotating the tablet like they are trying to reach launch speed for a frisbee.
I recently had the agony of watching someone with a tablet try to connect it to a projector and after 30 minutes delay he gave up, he then had to proceed using a 7″ screen to a room of 30 people and he did the frisbee launch speed trick too, three times. Not good.
In case this turns in to a PowerPoint blog I would like to point out that I prefer using the power of my speech, visual aids, like the items I am talking about or handouts at the poignant point. I love technology but as the MD of a leading 30year old IT company that covers two counties from two centres the last thing I need is to be let down by technology. It happened once, a presentation to the University just at the point that Microsoft thought I needed an update in a non broadband site.
My real point really is; I don’t dislike them but every time there is an offer such as a Hudl at £60 worth of Tesco vouchers and Carphone £49 while stocks last I think “now is the time”. I then do the justification exercise and think, do I really need a desktop, a laptop, a mobile phone AND a tablet? The answer is no, I can’t justify it, I wont use it and I lug enough stuff around anyway, even my own mustard but thats another story.
So the laptop lives in the house, my desktop in the office and the phone in my pocket with me at all times. My phone? its my satnav, mp3 player, I wat films on it when I am stuck in a waiting room. Its battery lasts two days, its a Samsung S3, why the hell would I want another gadget which isn’t a replacement for the others, besides raising a large package to my ear to take calls woulds be silly.
Sorry I have no need for a tablet and I am reminded of a clients response when I told her we had bought a pasta maker “Oh everyone bought one years ago, took a while to work out it wasn’t much good, they are all gathering dust in a cupboard now”, she was right too but I didn’t think so at the time. Anticipation is always better than acquisition.