Patently Bad for the GOOG: Apple and Microsoft Snag the Nortel IP

July 1, 2011

I don’t know much about patents, patent attorneys, or the group Google, Apple, and Microsoft. What I learned today seemed less than ideal for the GOOG. “Apple and Microsoft Beat Google for Nortel Patents” informed me that lots of wildebeests were stampeding to the outskirts of the civilized world to gain control of patents. The lingo was “6,000 patent assets to a consortium made up of Apple, Microsoft and other technology giants for $4.5 billion in cash.”

Now this type of play is good for some outfits. One winner is likely to be Lots of outfits are going to want to know the scoop on the Nortel treasure trove. There will be some losers. I hate to point this out but Google seems to be looking down the corridor of a very  long legal office building. The corridor has lots of doors. Behind each door is someone eager to sue Google for some alleged misstep. The corridor lighted with flickering neon tubes. The walls are government green. The floor is the weird gray stuff used in government buildings from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

The way to slow the Google is with legal hassles. Even for a patent klutz like me, it seems likely that the patent consortium may be hiring legal eagles, retired legal eagles, legal eagles to be and getting eyeballs devouring the Nortel patents and thinking about how those systems and methods may apply to what Google is doing.


Apple and Microsoft team up for the World Wrestling Federation battle over intellectual property related to telecommunications, mobile, and devices, among other related disciplines. Source:

Back to This type of outfit is likely to find that its partner network is one way to help satisfy the need to get expert inputs about the Nortel intellectual property and related issues. The company says:

Article One enables our clients to access the world’s validity evidence to make better patent-related business decisions. Our clients connect with a global workforce of subject-matter experts and researchers who submit non-digitized evidence and foreign-language non-patent literature.

The New York Times’s article makes it clear that expert sources are going to be very much in demand. Of course, has competitors, and these outfits will benefit as well. In my opinion, the Web scale of gives it an advantage because most patent experts have limited bandwidth. Getting lots of eyeballs going quickly is a definite competitive advantage, but that’s just my observer’s opinion.

Here’s the passage I noted in the New York Times’s story cited above:

The Google offer was interpreted as a defensive move by the search engine giant, which was seeking intellectual property rights to shield itself from lawsuits as it moves deeper into the mobile business with its Android platform. Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, wrote at the time of the bid that it was supposed to ‘‘create a disincentive for others to sue Google.’’ ‘‘The tech world has recently seen an explosion in patent litigation, often involving low-quality software patents,’’ Mr. Walker wrote. Now, thousands of crucial patents will be in the hands of rivals like Apple and Microsoft, both of which have shown themselves to be much more aggressive in patent litigation than Google. On Friday, Mr. Walker said in an e-mail message that the auction’s outcome was ‘‘disappointing for anyone who believes that open innovation benefits users and promotes creativity and competition.”

So what? My view is:

  1. Google is now a target because it has made mistakes and is currently fighting a multi front legal battle on core issues that may decide its fate. The allegations about favoring certain Web sites could expose some information that makes the glow on Google’s advertising pot of gold less inviting
  2. Google is distracted from search with its management incentive for social software. Can search experts do social? Google is making them try, and I hope it works. What’s the plan B?
  3. Google has a tough competitor in Apple. The notion of Apple and Microsoft doing a World Wrestling Federation tag team match again Messrs. Brin and Page. That’s a match everyone will get to watch.
  4. The shift in Web search behavior makes Google’s brute force approach less and less relevant with each passing day. Dare I mention Facebook? Well, the company has 700 million members and may become an even greater force in social media.
  5. Google is fixated on rich media. Is a contender, or is it destined to watch other services pull farther ahead? Apple, are you ready to roll over for the Google. Amazon, giving up? Microsoft conceding defeat? Netflix, Netflix, are you frightened? Yikes. Trouble methinks.

Net net: The patent deal is a significant event because Google is on notice that the legal front is going to be like a certain battle in Russia in 1941. Long nights, cold, and tasty grub. What look like amenities may have catastrophic consequences. I hope the Google prevails. Apple, Microsoft and others have made clear their desires are different from mine. I am in the rear with the gear, thank you.

Stephen E Arnold, July 2, 2011

You can read more about enterprise search and retrieval in The New Landscape of Enterprise Search, published my Pandia in Oslo, Norway, in June 2011.


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