Should (or Will) Google Start Playing Offense With Its Patent Arsenal?
When Google first launched their patent search in December of 2006 I don’t think many people believed or even thought it possible that Google’s own patents would come to flood the search results only a few years later. But now in 2011 we’ve witnessed Google, a company that has grown to massive proportions over the years, going on a rampage buying up patents left and right. Be it the purchase of 1,000 IBM patents earlier in the month – something that I viewed as entirely hypocritical – or the even larger move to purchase Motorola Mobility and gain an estimated 17,000 patents there’s no denying that Google has been quite busy recently. Just last month some people were predicting a “patent war” between Apple and Google, both of whom have expressed an interest in expanding their patent catalogs, and as of right now Google is definitely winning by far.
And Google isn’t bashful about letting their true intentions being known, either. Larry Page has been quoted as saying that the “acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable [them] to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.” Of course the reference to anti-competitive threats comes after Google has been taken to court for violating patents that have been granted to other entities. But really I have to wonder if Google really intends to simply sit on all of those patents. I get the fact that they’re looking to protect themselves, but the question still remains; will Google flex their now super-sized muscles in court and go after other entities (e.g. Microsoft and Apple) for violating patents that Google now owns (or will own in the near future)?
First and foremost I think it’s important to note that Google really doesn’t have a history of doing anything of the like. We never hear stories of Google taking other companies to court. Even when it was discovered (or at least speculated) that Microsoft’s Bing search engine was stealing results from Google the company simply shared their findings and publicly ridiculed Bing instead of taking Microsoft to court. So that said I really don’t think that Google is going to be overly strict about bringing patent infringements into the court system.
Nonetheless, now that Google is on the verge of holding a huge patent catalog I simply cannot fathom the company doing nothing with them. As I pointed out earlier, Page has been very blunt about the fact that Google’s acquisitions have been motivated by patent gains. And do you really think that Google can make a use for all of the patents they’re getting their hands on? I sure don’t. So really, it only makes sense that Google would begin “playing dirty.”
But now I have to ask myself a perhaps even more difficult question. Would Google be reasonable to start seeking out patent violations? Typically I would answer this question with a hands-down no, but because of the circumstances here I really have to re-think that opinion. You see, Google has been on the defensive side of patent battles for about a year now and companies like Microsoft and Apple have been absolutely brutal to Google in court. At risk of sounding like a five-year old who just got pulled out of a playground fight; they started it. So if/when Google starts getting offensive with their new patents I won’t think twice about it.
Maybe, just maybe though, Google will be able to make use of their new acquisitions without filing motions in court. Simply by having bought as many patents as they have I think that Google will become a force to be reckoned with. I mean, how many companies do you think will be willing to pursue a company that has tens of thousands of mobile-related patents alone? Exactly.
Either way we’re going to have to wait and see how things play out. All I’m saying, though, is that I’d be entirely surprised if Google bought all of those patents only to let them sit there. Trust me, this is far from over.