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Google nabs patents from defunct mini-phone maker

Pays $4.9 million for Modu shell

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Google has paid $4.9 million to acquire the patents of defunct Israeli phone maker Modu, according to a report from an Israeli newspaper.

Calcalist reports (Google Translate) that the web giant will purchase "dozens" of patents from the shell of Modu after a deal was approved by an Israeli court.

When we asked Google to confirm the purchase, it was non-committal. "Like many tech companies, at times we'll acquire patents that are relevant to our business." The purchase is presumably part of Google's effort to better defend Android against legal attack. Last month, Nortel announced that Google had bid $900m to acquire its patent portfolio, and Google has said it hopes to use the Nortel portfolio to protect not only Google but also partners and open source developers working on projects such as Android and Chrome.

Google's bid will serve as a starting point when Nortel auctions off its patent portfolio. Nortel filed for bankruptcy two years ago, and the company's creditors hope to raise over a billion dollars from the sale of the portfolio.

"As things stand today, one of a company’s best defenses against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services," Google said in a blog post. "Google is a relatively young company, and although we have a growing number of patents, many of our competitors have larger portfolios given their longer histories."

According to patent watcher Florian Muller, Google's Android mobile operating system is the subject of 37 separate lawsuits. Muller and others say that one of the reasons Android has been attacked so often is that Google's patent portfolio is relatively weak.

Founded in 2007 by Israeli Dov Moran, Modu sold a tiny, lightweight phone that could slide in and out of different "jackets" that provided additional tools. The primary device had footprint about the size of a credit card and weighted 1.5 grams. ®

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