It’s no secret that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has been in the market to buy some patents for several months now. Now it looks like Google finally found what it’s looking for. The search giant has purchased more than 1,000 patents from the largest U.S. patent-holder of all: IBM.
Records at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office show that IBM transferred 1,030 different patents to Google on July 11 and 12. The purchase was first reported last night by SEO By The Sea, a search marketing blog.
Google didn’t comment on the specifics of the sale, but a company spokesman told the WSJ: “Like many tech companies, at times we’ll acquire patents that are relevant to our business.”
The big IBM purchase comes on the heels of a failed attempt to purchase the giant batch of wireless patents auctioned off by defunct Canadian telecom Nortel. While Google was ready to put some serious cash into the purchase, it wasn’t ready to pay the whopping $4.5 billion purchase price that a consortium of competitors ended up forking out.
In addition to its Nortel bid, Google has been considering purchasing InterDigital, a company that holds thousands of patents (and not much else) and recently put itself up for sale.
If there’s any company with patents to spare, it’s surely IBM. Big Blue has topped the list of companies getting the most U.S. patent grants every year for the past 18 years. In 2009, IBM received 4,914 U.S. patents, an all-time record.
The reason Google needs so many patents is to fend off potential attacks by competitors. As Google GC Kent Walker explained in an April blog post, “[O]ne 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.” Walker added: “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.”