Feeds

Has Google wasted $12bn on a dud patent poker-chip?

Larry Page's Moto bluff fails to convince

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Analysis It's all about patents, says Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page. Google insists that it bought Motorola to shore up its Android platform, which is caught in a litigious pincer movement from old buddies Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison. Microsoft is merely egging them on the sidelines as the manbags fly, shouting: "Fight!"

But analysts I've spoken to are already wondering how much due diligence Google performed before the announcement, or whether the Motorola acquisition will turn out to rival Terra's legendary, rushed purchase of EMI. Here's why.

Android is a copycat platform. The APIs copy Java, and the UI copies Apple's iPhone. Oracle believes Google has violated Java IP, which it acquired with Sun Microsystems. Google says the language, and a third of Android's API's are "derivative" of Java. On the other warpath, Apple has launched three dozen lawsuits relating to usability and UI. Apple is hurling these lawsuits at Android licensees, rather than at Google itself. Google has refused to indemnify its partners, causing much nervousness.

But Motorola's IP war chest does not help Google here. It is poor where it needs to be rich. It is no help at all in the Oracle battle, which (alas) as many people have forgotten today, is largely about copyrights not patents. The Motorola patent war chest could only help Google against Apple by opening up a new front, with retaliatory litigation which threatens every rival handset manufacturer. But have a look where Motorola patents' strengths are: radio engineering and design. The most vital radio patents are already covered by existing patent pools.

Bear in mind, too, that Nokia has a patent portfolio that is as strong as – or stronger than – Motorola's. Nokia executives believed it was so strong it would derail the Cupertino upstart. But when Nokia and Apple settled last month, Nokia barely came out ahead, with a one-off payment of €430m.

These radio and design patents of legacy manufacturers such as Motorola or Nokia really aren't worth quite as much as their owners think they are.

Google has paid $12.5bn for a negotiating chip that appears to be almost impossible to redeem. In this light, the acquisition looks like panic, rather than a calm and carefully deliberated strategy. Google didn't take IP seriously, bidding silly numbers (such as pi billion dollars) for the Nortel patents. Then it realised it might be in trouble, and so went out and bought some IBM patents. Now it has splurged $12.5bn, truly believing the IP is going to be useful.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Apple's iPhone 6 first-day sales are MEANINGLESS, mutters analyst
Big weekend queues only represent fruity firm's supply
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Bill Gates, drugs and the internet: Top 10 Larry Ellison quotes
'I certainly never expected to become rich ... this is surreal'
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.