Rockstar vs. Google and Samsung: The patent war goes to 11

Backed by Apple and Microsoft, Rockstar Consortium is latest patent troll on the block, with sights set on Android universe

You hear the word "rock star" and certain images come immediately to mind: skeletal figures with expensive stringed instruments slung over their shoulders; anyone who possesses above-average skills in a technical profession and is trying to pump up their salary requirements; an energy drink. Now we can add a new one: patent troll.

Last week, Google, Samsung, HTC, and other makers of Android handsets found themselves on the wrong end of patent lawsuits filed by the musically disinclined, technically overhyped, and very energetic Rockstar Consortium.

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Google, for example, is being sued for violating Rockstar's patents on "associative search engines," which match the search terms entered by a user with ads relevant to the terms being sought.

Get your rocks off

It sounds pretty egregious -- until you consider that Rockstar is a consortium formed by Microsoft, Apple, RIM, Ericsson, and Sony, which outbid Google for the patent portfolio of bankrupt telecom Nortel back in 2011 for the tidy sum of $4.5 billion. All of these parties have a mutual interest in bringing down the No. 1 smartphone platform. The filing of these patent suits was just a matter of time.

Ars Technica's Joe Mullin writes:

Patent insiders knew that the Nortel portfolio was the patent equivalent of a nuclear stockpile: dangerous in the wrong hands, and a bit scary even if held by a "responsible" party.

This afternoon, that stockpile was finally used for what pretty much everyone suspected it would be used for--launching an all-out patent attack on Google and Android. The smartphone patent wars have been underway for a few years now, and the eight lawsuits filed in federal court today by Rockstar Consortium mean that the conflict just hit DEFCON 1.

Three guesses where Rockstar filed its suits. Yes, that's right, the Eastern District of Texas, where never is heard a discouraging word -- at least, not if you're a patent troll. In my I-am-not-an-IP-attorney-and-if-I-were-I'd-probably-shoot-myself opinion, the fact that the suits are filed in this notorious jurisdiction should be cause enough for dismissal.

(BTW, I've just applied for a patent for excessively hyphenated snarky adjectival phrases. Don't even think of trying it, imitate-me-and-better-put-your-attorney-on-speed-dial person.)

Of course, a big part of why Google dropped $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility was its portfolio of patents, so you can expect a countersuit some time soon.

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