If it seemed as though the already insane world of wireless-patent lawsuits couldn’t become any more complicated — well, yesterday it did.
As Google and its partners are launching the Nexus 5 and KitKat, the latest version of the Android operating system, a consortium of tech companies had other plans.
The so-called Rockstar Consortium — an alliance of Apple and Microsoft, plus BlackBerry, Ericsson and Sony — controls a portfolio of some 6,000 patents bought from the bankrupt Canadian telecommunications company Nortel. They paid $4.5 billion for the patents in 2011.
Yesterday was something of a D-day, as Rockstar filed eight lawsuits in a federal court in Texas, accusing Google of infringing those patents. In addition to Google, the defendants in the cases are Samsung, LG Electronics, HTC, Huawei, Asustek, Pantech and ZTE Corp., constituting essentially all of the Android smartphone ecosystem. One batch of suits — mainly the one against Google itself — go after its mainstream advertising business. The others go after the phones themselves.
One thing that’s likely to count against Google as the case gets under way is the fact that it engaged in the competitive bidding for the patents. As the complaint against Google says (you can read it below), it bid as much as $4.4 billion for the trove of patents, only to be outbid in the end. That’s going to make it harder to argue in court that the patents in question aren’t worth anything. I was interested to read Florian Mueller’s comment today, on Foss Patents , that there’s a Latin phrase for this sort of thing: Venire contra factum proprium, which basically means that you can’t argue that what you did before is meaningless.
Google didn’t immediately have a comment. Its shares are rising in pre-market trading today, up $2.42, to $1,033 a share.