Google’s purchase of Motorola’s cellphone business for $12.5 billion does not signal the search giant’s interest in making cellphones. Rather, Google bought the cellphone company in a strategic bid to secure its approximately 17,000 mobile-related patents worldwide, with 7,000 more patents pending. Google will use the patents to defend against lawsuits expected from Apple, Microsoft and Oracle claiming that its open-source cellphone operating system, Android, violates patents held by their three companies.
What’s the Big Idea?
Patents are meant to protect and encourage innovation but lately they have been used as a battle ground in a proxy war between the nation’s biggest technology firms. The most recent example of successful patent litigation is Apple’s court victory that has kept Samsung’s tablet computer out of European stores—judges ruled that software patents held by Apple had been violated. Legal experts and software developers say patent reform is urgently needed to keep companies from expending their resources in protracted legal battles and to find a system that truly protects and encourages innovation.