As expected, EU competition authorities and the US Department of Justice (DoJ) have cleared Google’s proposed $12.5bn merger with Motorola Mobility. The merger, initially announced in August, has been on hold while regulators decide if the pool of over 17,000 patents granted to Motorola (and over 7,000 still pending) would be …
"and given that Motorola’s been at the heart of the mobile phone industry ever since introducing the first commercial “mobile” handset, it should have some pretty good stuff."
Erm, those patents expired after 17 years, 20 at most in special cases.
So anything before 1992 is gone to patent heaven. Just for reference GSM started in 1982, with the first official standard published in 1990.
Those patents are no more.
Just to add that in a recent study by Forbes, Motorola was said to own only 9% of essential patents related to LTE, the same as Nokia, Samsung and Interdigital.
The biggest chunk are actually owned by LG (23%) and Broadcom (21%)
@Metavisor - Those patents are like sh*t
In that it takes one tiny little drop to ruin a huge cake completely!
You don't need to have 1000 patents, the only one that will bring your opponent down to his knees begging for mercy will do just fine.
Not these ones...
These are essential, standard, patents.
None would make the opponent beg for mercy, and even less so now that the regulators are watching.
What about all the other patents?
Remember, Google's already tangling with the MPEG-LA over video codec patents (ever since Google released the WEBM codec). MPEG-LA is trying to force users to license while Google counters that it has patents of its own that could make AVC fall under its purview. We haven't heard much from them lately, which makes me think Google at least has something over their heads which is keeping them at the bargaining table.
While the Standard, Essential Patents can't be leveraged, and many of Motorola's older patents are already expired, what's to say there isn't some other patent in the pool that could become a bad apple in a patent war?
Despite the issues Motorola had with phones in the nineties/naughties, you think they were sitting on their hands doing nothing? They've had a very active innovation culture which continues to this day (albeit on a smaller scale now). The essential patents count for not much, as they have to be licensed on a FRAND basis - at which point it's a question of "whose pile is the biggest" influencing the cross-licensing revenues, but they had a variety of all sorts of clever stuff going on - even innovating around the styling of the phone (StarTac, RAZR, etc..).
Also, from my recollection, the balance of revenues from patents was greatly in favour of the mobile division versus the networks division (where I was for 10+ years) - probably as a consequence of the FRAND stuff, but I never saw an analysis.
It will be interesting to see if Google change the standardisation strategy of MotoMob.
Oh and, for reference, GSM is still alive and kicking (VAMOS, REDHOT & HUGE (don't put engineers in charge of acronyms) are rather recent features, and I've been out of the loop for a little while), and Motorola Mobility is still involved in shaping the standards. GSM did not stop innovating in 1990.
> at which point it's a question of "whose pile is the biggest" influencing the cross-licensing revenues
Thanks for confirming my point that in essential patents, size of the pool is the one thing that matters.
As for your other point, Motorola holds 11% of today's GSM essential patents, while Nokia has 33% and Ericson 22%.
If we look at 3G WCDMA patents they hold a paltry 2%, even Samsung - a new player in mobile, who only started in the 90s - have them beat with 5%.
So it does Motorola were stitting on their hands there for a bit, at least for this type of IP.
The MPEG-LA is completely irrelevant to this discussion, but just wanted to say you've got your facts upside down: it's the MPEG-LA pool of companies who claim to have patents covering aspects of Google's VP8 codec.
You're probably thinking of the WebM CCL, effectively Google's WebM patent pool, but that's mostly designed to guarantee WebM-using companies don't go and sue each other over it. Given their member list http://www.webm-ccl.org/members/ I would think that was unlikely from the start...
Here's some insights into that: http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2011/04/google-builds-webm-patent-pool-of-its-own-to-fight-back-against-mpeg-la.ars
They didn't sit on their hands at all, they merely burned through billions investing in Iridium instead of 3GPP technology, which turned out to be a duff decision. I can imagine they possibly also own all sorts of interesting stuff to do with managing voice-over-satellite (if that didn't get spun out with Iridium).
Other bad moves: the handset division got too fractured, peaking at (I think) 9 platforms, each with their own variant of the software which was a pig to manage. Then they went the other way and focussed entirely on the RAZR to the detriment of a pipeline of products for the western world (I seem to recall they did lots of interesting things in China that never made it to our shores). On the networks side, they struggled to gain traction in the market and went from a full solution supplier to a radio manufacturer after successive outsourcing deals for different other bits. There was a last (small) belch of investment towards LTE networks before the NSN acquisition effectively closed that door. This can be seen in the chart here:
There are all sorts of conflicting ways of counting the value of patents - we'll only really know when they go to court who can be the victor. I suspect a lot of the "essential" stuff gets nailed down in chipset and protocol stack licensing.
It's not just the size of the pool that matters, it's what you can do with it.
No, I'm quite clear about it.
MPEG-LA has been threatening to sue Google over patents it claims covers VP8 (the fundamental codec for WebM), and Google refused to back down. Now, when a company refuses to back down from a patent claim, there are usually two reasons. 1) the patent claim is unfounded, or 2) you can fight back. When Google bought On2, it also got access to its patent pool, and since the complete list is not fully understood, there may be potential patents that could affect MPEG-LA's key codecs like AVC. IOW, Google may be refusing on grounds of (2): threatening to counter a patent claim WITH a patent claim and therefore starting a patent war. MPEG-LA would have more to lose in a patent war since Google has the resources to fight and doesn't have as much at stake as they do (Google isn't charging for the use of its patents; MPEG-LA is).. In addition, the US government is starting to nose into MPEG-LA's business over predatory patent practices. I suspect that's why you don't hear much from MPEG-LA about WebM these days.
As for the CCL, you may want to take a look at something significant. AFAIK, none of the companies listed in the CCL are also part of MPEG-LA. No crossover means there are distinct battle lines in this. Apple and Microsoft are part of MPEG-LA and stand to gain if they win. Small wonder they're not part of the CCL.
"But Google may also get new problems with Android as part of the deal. Several manufacturers have expressed misgivings, feeling that Google will give Motorola preference with the latest builds and tweaks for Android and leave them playing second fiddle."
Errm, like Microsoft and Nokia are then.... Or Nokrosoft as they will be surely called by this time next year, when Microsoft have destroyed their share price and bought them out.
The difference is, no one is interested in using windows phone.
In fact of course, the Motorola Xoom has already been the first platform for new versions of Android for some time. Someone has to do the prototyping work.
I can't see how this is good for anyone but Google. Or will it mean Google suing Nokia or HTC to get them to drop Windows Phone 7?
"Of course, the Commission will continue to keep a close eye on the behavior of all market players in the sector, particularly the increasingly strategic use of patents"
Sorry, *continue*? You mean *start* surely?
Apple have been strategically using their rectangle patent, or whatever it is, for ages now.
Google have tried *not* playing the patent game and that has allowed Apple and Microsoft to attack Google and it's collaborators at will. Now there's some chance the war will abate because Google are now armed and willing to fight back. We're returning to the normal MAD state.
That said, most of the attacks have been pretty damaging to the attackers so far if you just count the invalidated patents. Unfortunately that's not how the game is scored, the result less important the the collateral damage along the way.
Google always plays its cards close to its chest then just releases stuff.
I'm sure someone in Google somewhere knows exactly what the Moto acquisition was for and there's a long-view gameplan whether it's some method they've found of grinding Apple into the dirt, cornering some niche tech they want to move forward with and have ownership of or simply to have a huge cannon to fire back at rectangular lawsuits with. They know, we don't. If we accept that then all we need to do is sit back with popcorn.
Make mine a large tub.
If there was such a thing it would have been plastered all over the Google employees' social network - Google+ - or Eric Schmidt would have boasted about it at some conference.
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