Until now the mobile patent wars had just been heating up, but things finally kicked into high gear yesterday when Rockstar, a small company owned by a group of technology heavyweights including Microsoft and Apple, filed eight new lawsuits against Google and the top seven Android device makers. Steve Jobs famously threatened to “go thermonuclear war” over Android, which he saw as a blatant ripoff of iOS, and two years after his passing it looks like that day has finally come.
Rockstar was created in 2009 when Microsoft and Apple joined forced with Ericsson, Sony and RIM—now BlackBerry—to buy Canadian company Nortel’s portfolio of over 6,000 patents, outbidding Google and paying $4.5 billion in total. In response, Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion in 2011, acquiring its own trove of patents, but that may not be enough to protect it now.
The lawsuit against Google covers six patents all focused on the company’s main business, referred to as an “associative search engine.” The patents, one of which dates back to 1997, cover an “an advertisement machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network.” Meanwhile, Rockstar’s lawsuits against Asustek, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE target smartphones and tablets, presumably making use of Nortel’s 4G technology patents.
Backed-by Apple and Microsoft with a slim staff of just a few dozen, no products of its own and a patent war chest worth billions, Rockstar may be the ultimate patent troll out there. Google certainly knew this day was coming, but the scope of these lawsuits could be enough to do some real damage to the Android platform.