Rockstar Consortium Sues Google Search Patent
November 1, 2013

Rockstar Consortium Sues Google For Infringing On Search Patent

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Apple, Microsoft and others have banded together to sue Google for infringing on search patents. The group, also known as the 'Rockstar consortium,' claim Google and others are infringing on a total of seven patents, some of which cover the way advertising is matched with search results.

The Rockstars formed in 2011 to bid against Google and others for a stack of 4,000 Nortel patents. In the end, the Rockstars outbid their competitors with a bid of $4.5 billion to Google’s $4.4 billion. Now the winning group is taking Google, HTC, Huawei and Samsung to a US District Court in Marshall, TX, a court well known for showing favor to plaintiffs.

When the Nortel patents first came on the auction block, Google’s team placed an initial bid of $900 million to acquire the patents. Then, in a move which confounded many who were closely watching this auction, Google began bidding some very strange numbers.

"Google was bidding with numbers that were not even numbers," one source who was present at the auction told Reuters. "It became clear that they were bidding with the distance between the earth and the sun. One was the sum of a famous mathematical constant, and then when it got to $3 billion, they bid pi. Either they were supremely confident or they were bored."

In their complaint against Google, the Rockstar consortium says the search company was aware that it was infringing on these patents when they went to auction in 2011. The group is seeking past and future damages from Google’s alleged infringement of those patents. Moreover, the group claims Samsung is guilty of infringing on seven other Nortel patents, including a patent titled "Navigation Tool for Graphical User Interface.”

Any Samsung device running an operating system which can “support Gallery, Email, Maps and Browser functionality” could infringe on this patent. Other features of Samsung phones, such as the mobile hotspot Wi-Fi sharing tool, infringe on other patents held by the Rockstar Consortium.

Though many expected Google to dip into their enormous troves of cash to win the patents, their group bid up to $4 billion before finally tapping out just short of the Rockstar team's bid. The search giant then went on to bid $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility in a move seen by many as a way to stock their patent war chest for future court battles. Yet after losing key battles to Apple and Microsoft, some wonder if Google overpaid for the company.

“Its leverage against Microsoft at this stage is precisely zero, and against Apple there’s only one patent being enforced in one jurisdiction: the push notification patent in Germany,” wrote patent blogger Florian Mueller last year. “With Motorola’s ITC case against Apple now also being in bad shape (though not 100% lost yet, as I explained), it’s extremely hard to see what the point in the whole Motorola Mobility deal was.”

Though largely unspoken, Apple has been targeting Google and their partners in several patent infringement cases. This is most clearly seen in Apple’s ongoing war with Samsung for design and patent infringement.