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Google BLASTS BACK at Apple, Microsoft, Sony in Android patent WAR

Demands jury trial to prove Rockstar's claims groundless

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Google has struck back at a patent-wielding consortium composed of industry heavy-hitters with a lawsuit seeking a judgment that neither Google nor any of its Android partners infringes on the group's patents.

The move is the latest chapter in a saga that dates back to 2011, when Apple, BlackBerry, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, and Sony teamed up to buy the patent portfolio of failed telecoms vendor Nortel for $4.5bn, beating out Google's own $900m bid.

That group later emerged as Rockstar, and earlier this year it began firing off lawsuits at Google and makers of Android devices – including Asus, HTC, Huawei, LG, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE – alleging that the Chocolate Factory's smartphone OS infringes on its patent pool.

Google denies the charges, and in documents filed with the US District Court of Northern California on Monday, it has asked for a trial that it hopes will end with a declaration that Android is in the clear.

In its filing, the online ad giant describes Rockstar as a patent troll that seeks to "harm Google's Android platform and disrupt Google's relationships with the Android OEM Defendants."

"Rockstar produces no products and practices no patents," Google's lawyers write in the filing. "Instead, Rockstar employs a staff of engineers in Ontario, Canada, who examine other companies' successful products to find anything that Rockstar might use to demand and extract licenses to its patents under threat of litigation."

For its part, Rockstar says its portfolio comprises more than 4,000 patents, so it only naturally covers diverse applications.

"Because Rockstar's portfolio is based on a wide range of telecommunications, wired and networking based research and development performed by Nortel engineers," a statement on the group's website explains, "a significant portion of today's high technology products and services relate to these patents."

Google's filing claims that Rockstar has already sought licenses from as many as 100 companies. How successful those efforts have been isn't clear, however, since the world of patent licensing is often murky and the terms of individual licenses are seldom disclosed.

But there is some evidence that Rockstar's efforts haven't been going as well as its constituent companies may have hoped. On Monday, Bloomberg reported that Rockstar has been in talks to sell off a portion of its patent portfolio, indicating that what was once thought to be a goldmine might not be delivering enough return on its hefty purchase price.

Be that as it may, Google categorically denies that Android infringes on any of seven different patents asserted by Rockstar, and it wants its day in court to prove it.

Google has specifically requested a jury trial, and in the event the jury finds in its favor, it has asked that Rockstar be made to pay for all of its court costs and attorneys' fees, as well as "such further and additional relief as the Court deems just and proper."

Rockstar did not immediately respond to The Reg's request for comment. ®

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