Motorola Mobility pushes patent absurdity to extremes

It's Motorola Mobility versus the world as Google's future business property opens up the patent war on three fronts

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The patents asserted by Motorola are, in the E.U.'s view, essential for an industry to function and must therefore be made available to other players under reasonable terms or FRAND (fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory) licenses. Those standards are necessary to be sure that devices made by different companies can interact with each other and with networks. The European Commission said it "will assess whether Motorola has abusively, and in contravention of commitments it gave to standard setting organizations, used certain of its standard essential patents to distort competition."

Regulators in Europe and the United States approved the purchase of Motorola last month, but both warned Google not to abuse Motorola's huge (17,000 or so) patent portfolio once the deal closes. "This merger decision should not and will not mean that we are not concerned by the possibility that, once Google is the owner of this portfolio, Google can abuse these patents, linking some patents with its Android devices. This is our worry. ... We might be obliged to open some cases in the future. This is not enough to block the merger but we will be vigilant," said E.U. Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

Back in the states, meanwhile, Facebook on Tuesday filed a countersuit against Yahoo, defending its own patents and claiming that Yahoo infringes on nine Facebook patents. This follows Yahoo's claim that Facebook had infringed on 10 patents, covering such details as where ads are placed on a page, how views are customized, instant messaging, and more. You don't suppose that Yahoo's own troubles (it just announced layoffs of 2,000 people) and Facebook's imminent bonanza of IPO riches have anything to do with this, do you?

Don't forget that Oracle's suit against Google is set for trial in mid-April. Oracle claims that Google's Android operating system violates a number of its Java-related patents. It looked like that case was about to settle when Google offered to pay Oracle roughly $2.8 million in damages, but the deal collapsed. I haven't even touched on the complex web of suits surrounding the iPhone and Samsung, but you get the idea.

The tech industry continues to destroy value that should be going to innovation and job creation. As I noted last year, Google is spending more than $400,000 for each of the patents it will acquire along with Motorola, It's doing so because each side of the patent arms race believes it needs an even bigger arsenal.

Now we learn that when the acquisition is complete, Google will also have purchased new and expensive fights with regulators on any number of fronts. Does that make any sense?

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here (Add a comment) so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill@billsnyder.biz. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Motorola Mobility pushes patent absurdity to extremes," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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