Oracle started a patent war in August 2010 by suing Google for up to $6.1 billion, claiming Google's Android platform infringes Oracle's Java patents. Now Apple is suing HTC, Samsung and Motorola, all makers of Android phones, and Microsoft is suing Motorola over its Android line. (Washington Post 9 July 2011).
Google CEO Larry Page partially justified the $12.5 billion price for Motorola Mobility based on the defensive value of its patents. "Motorola has a strong patent portfolio, which will help protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies," he said on 15 August when the acquisition was announced. Since then much has been said and written about the other benefits in having a hardware division with, perhaps, unique access to future releases of Android code (and much has also been written about the threat this may pose to Google's Android partners like Samsung and HTC).
Meanwhile, outsourced monetarization of patents is becoming more widespread.
This is not new. Since 2001, BT has engaged IPVALUE Management in the commercialization of its patent portfolio. The parties claim to have concluded many agreements resulting in significant revenues for BT, citing as an example the assignment of certain GSM-related patents to Samsung Electronics. BT claims to have built up a portfolio of over 4,000 patents granted worldwide, with a further 3,000 applications pending and on 3 August this year, BT announced the sale of a portfolio of 400 patent "assets" to Luxembourg company Patentportfolio 2 S.a r.l.
On 1 September this year, MOSAID, a Canadian patent licensing company announced it is acquiring 2,000 of Nokia's patents, not for cash, but in exchange for one third of future revenue. Mosaid has filed patent suits in the past against Dell, HTC, Sony Ericsson, Research In Motion, Huawei Technologies, Wistron, Asus Computer, Lexmark, Canon and Intel, among others (noted by The Next Web). MOSAID will split licensing revenues with Nokia and Microsoft. According to MOSAID, it has aquired another Luxembourg company, Core Wireless Licensing, holding a portfolio of 400 patent families including 2,000 wireless patents and patent applications originally filed by Nokia. The patents and patent applications in question "cover technologies used in a wide range of mobile communications devices and services," say MOSAID, including "1,200 patents and applications that have been declared essential to second, third and fourth-generation communications standards." One effect of the MOSAID-Nokia transaction, according to Reuters, is to fend off a hostile bid from WiLan, another patent-licensing company that offered $38 per share to acquire MOSAID just two weeks earlier. (Wi-LAN convinced Nokia in 2006 to part with $15 million in cash and a number of ADSL and other wireline patents in exchange for a licence under patents owned by Wi-LAN.)
Nokia and Microsoft are partnering to develop a new Windows phone that is competitive against Apple's iPhone and Google's Android. One of the assets Microsoft secured as part deal with Nokia is access Nokia patents, including those covering phone cameras, lenses, hinges and various industrial-design components, Microsoft officials said.
Microsoft say they have a license to the Nokia patents acquired by MOSAID and "a passive economic interest" in the revenue generated from the licensing of those patents to third parties. Says Microsoft's Horacio Gutierrez, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, "The marketplace for intellectual property is incredibly dynamic today, and this agreement is an effective way to make these Nokia innovations available to the industry and to unlock the considerable value of this IP portfolio." (Mary Jo Foley, ZDNet, 2 September 2011.)