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Android under attack: rivals unleash nuclear patent hell against Samsung, Google

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The mobile patent wars appeared to hit an apex in 2012 when Apple and Samsung slugged it out before a California jury, fulfilling Steve Jobs’ vow to “go nuclear” against Google’s Android operating system. It turns out that was just the opening act.

On Halloween, a consortium of Google rivals — Microsoft(s msft), Apple(s aapl), RIM, Ericsson, and Sony — filed at least 15 lawsuits against Samsung, Huawei, HTC, LG Electronics and other manufacturers that make Android smartphones. The suits say the companies infringe on a range of basic smartphone features, ranging from email to location to hotspot capacities (a total of 7 companies plus Google are named in the 15 cases).

In the case of Samsung, the complaint (embedded below) appears to target the company’s entire product line, referring to “Samsung’s Mobile Communication Devices,” and specifically naming the Samsung Captivate and the Galaxy S III. One lawsuit names Google directly, claiming the company’s core advertising tool, AdWords, violates a patent from 2000.

As for the patents themselves, they are not actual Apple or Microsoft inventions — they once belonged to a defunct Canadian company, Nortel, that collapsed more than a decade ago. The Google rivals acquired them in 2012 when they formed a coalition known as Rockstar Bidco and bought them at auction for $4.5 billion. The auction, in turn, led Google to pay the stunning sum of $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility, and its large portfolio of patents.

The companies appear to have been threatening each other for a while — the Samsung complaint says Google’s rivals informed them about the patents in mid-2012. Now, the cold war has erupted into a legal nuclear one, as the new lawsuits amount to an effort to cripple the entire Android eco-system.

So, what happens now? Google will likely strike back with lawsuits of its own in an attempt to protect itself and the Android eco-system. The outcome will then be put before a handful of men and women in rural Texas, where the lawsuit were filed, to make a decision by jury. The fact that many of the manufacturers are Asian, not American, could provide Apple et al with a home-field advantage of sorts.

It’s too soon to say who will win, but one thing is certain: consumers will lose. Litigation at this scale costs tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars — money that could instead be based on research or design or something remotely useful. Instead, it will go to law firms, and require engineers and executives to waste days or weeks sitting through legal depositions and courtroom theatrics.

Meanwhile, if Google and the manufacturers lose a jury verdict or agree to pay a settlement, the price they pay will be passed on to consumers through higher handset prices.

The lawsuits are yet another low for America’s troubled patent system. As Joe Mullin of Ars Technica notes, this type of litigation — known as “privateering” — amounts to corporate patent trolling. While the patent system is supposed to encourage innovation by providing temporary monopolies to inventors, it has instead become a distraction and economic deadweight.

You can decide for yourself: here’s the Samsung complaint which invokes a 1998 patent for “Electronic Package Carrying an Electronic Component and Assembly of Mother Board and Electronic Package,” patents from 2000 for “Navigation Tool for Graphical User Interface”  and “Internet Protocol” and other long-ago patents from long-dead Nortel.

Clarification: this story has been amended to say that Nortel collapsed (rather than went bankrupt) more than a decade ago; the company became a penny stock in 2002 but its formal bankruptcy occurred in 2009.

Rockstar v Samsung.pdf

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60 Responses to “Android under attack: rivals unleash nuclear patent hell against Samsung, Google”

  1. All the Apple haters please read more history of technology before you come out and say those bad words about Apple. Just compare all the smart phones before and after the iPhone and you will know how Apple really pushed the smart phone industry forward. I hate when people taking things for granted. People should be rewarded for their hard work, not to be ripped off by someone.

  2. If google and team wins – why will consumers loose ? Apple has more stock piles of money to cover it’s ass – I don’t see a rational argument in your title.

  3. Maybe all of them should shake hands and buy licenses to patent No. 8,533, 097 and pending continuation applications which cover everything about the mobile phones, tablets and the network systems on which they operate.

  4. If it wasn`t for The Beatles the company would not be called Apple. They stole the name,and where took to court about it. The Beatles had the copy rite for the Apple Logo,and the name.
    It was later settled out of court,and The Beatles where paid quite a sum of money to let them use it.

  5. If I remember correctly, Google was also bidding on this exact same set of patents. I’m sure they would never have dreamed of using the patents against their competitors though. I love how the commenters have lifted google onto this pedestal as if they never do any wrong, and in turn turned it into a witch hunt on Apple. Give me a break. Google is just as bad as anybody. I also cannot believe the energy some people expend on hating a company. If that is the biggest issue in your life, you should feel blessed!

  6. Howard Zeprun

    So, Google is attacking the Apple world with patents Google did not invent, and Apple and crew are attacking back with patents they did not invent. Here’s a concept. Let them all cross-license and just slug it out in the marketplace. Wait, isn’t that what everyone did before trolls came along?

  7. Have you guys heard yourselves “I hate Apple with a passion”. Its just a law suit who cares. Apple is a great company so is Google. I love my iPhone for its design and i think the nexus seven is amazing and aswell as my kindle. People need to step back and just agree that not everyone has the same taste. Some enjoy the power of a nexus, the size of a note and the beautiful design of a mac. And thank god they all exist. Apple fans and android fans both suck…

  8. Anonymous

    This just shows the desperate attempt to bring the android users down because colorful iPhones as just not cutting it. I have the iPhone and android, and to honestly compare them… The android wins cause it’s ability for constant improvements to it’s hardware capabilities. Apples iPhones limited size causes hardware limits, so I’m guessing by changing the color might help with battery life??? Just kidding, unless it’s true then that will suck. Lol.

    • Apple actually makes a real profit on their hardware Google meanwhile, like Amazon doesn’t make anything on their throwaway hardware, they are there to mine your info for their gain. nothing else.

    • Yup!! Soon Samsung will fork Android. And the whole Android fragmentation will be an even bigger problem. It would make sense for Sam to do so. You can tell they are already positioning the ship to do so. E.g Samsung Developer Conference..

  9. iamchandlerbing

    Useless piece.
    Android reached 81% share. That is almost monopoly.
    Will buy myself an apple or windows phone.
    I will no longer (gnex owner, yes) buy an android just so that 81% shrinks a bit.
    Android is cheap by:
    1. Avoiding paying royalties.
    2. Mining users info and selling them.

    FU Google. I shall depart from your greediness.
    You are an advertisment company disguised as tech.
    An elaborate ploy of making tech, appealing to the masses as the good guys, in exchange of our info, preferences, activities so you can make money.

    • Yup me too! Already phasing off of gProducts. And google maps on the desktop sucks now for some reason. I wish they didn’t buy Waze….dammit!

      They are just a huge ad driven company harvesting your personnel information and cataloging it to sell it to the highest bidder.

      I don’t want anybody or any company knowing what time I leave the house, where I work, where go to eat, etc.

      Now for those who say that Apple mines that same information aren’t looking through a clear lens. Googles business is all dangling these nice apps, and cheap phones, all so that they can get at your data. That’s there core business model. Apple just wants to sell you expensive products, that’s there core business.

      Google is indeed the most evil entity this world has ever seen.

  10. Have to agree…Samsung and Google have been kicking a s s for 2-3 years and the losers are tired of it. Sony is surprising tho. Because it’s going to hurt them too. They really don’t have their own OS that can stand on its own. Google and Samsung, even HTC does. If Samsung were were smart they’d buy RIM and wipe it out. Apple and Microsoft aren’t going anywhere….but nobody wants a garbage windows phone anyway. Apple…let’s just I’d rather use a $20 android phone or a rotary phone by I try another iphone!

    • It’s easy to kick ass when you steal, Samdung won’t get Blackberry just like they didn’t Fokker airlines, the Canadian government won’t allow it. Maybe Google their partner in crime can act as the front.

    • Un-American? what can be more un-American than Google enabling, the Asian companies with a Mobile OS, where would those companies be today without a mobile OS. Google and their Chaebol evil minion Samsung have been losing in court because they steal, borrow, and copy other peoples work.

      • Totally!!!! Well SAID! Gosh why are people so narrow? I understand why people love either side….but c’mon…these Android devices would all look like Blackberries if it weren’t for Schmidt being on the Apple board. People seem to not know the difference from inventing, innovating, and copying.

  11. Tuano Emilio

    The consumers nowadays are WISE & SMART practical in everything is our priority from : price coasting, durability, battery life, service warranty after sales maintenans, features, & etc.

  12. Tuano Emilio

    For users Androids is pracical in update simple friendly but for apple & micosoft are very expensive special in update download they dont show value to the consumers loyalty – they want keep on never ending earning from users taking advantage too much abiuos. We learn to live right for good not to be your slave ! We will not patronage very expensive gatgets for all of you will end in a nothing . Products that are made in asian are affortable to anyone anywhere compare to them !!!

  13. Rick Rose

    Idiotic editorializing from this author – Inventors are entitled to patent protection and infringers should pay – Without possession of any facts this author makes a declaratory ruling that Nortel’s successors are not entitled to be compensated by a behemoth irrespective of whether or not they’ve infringed and passes ill conceived judgment on the societal benefits of not protecting inventors –

    • beenyweenies

      “Inventors” doesn’t really come into play when you’re talking about a consortium of “behemoths” (to use your words) who purchased the patents SOLELY to ensure Google couldn’t get them, and so that they could use them to sue Google.

      There’s nothing about protecting “inventors” here, we’re talking about the sensibility of allowing people to purchase a patent and then use it to sue everyone around them. That’s not the spirit of patent law.

      • When Google couldn’t purchase the patent, Google can buy those licences or go to court. People pay millions of dollar for research and people pay billions of dollar purchasing those patents. It’s not a free world, people.

  14. Look again, its not just Android. This hit Google in the crown jewels, the technology behind adwords, which is their primary revenue stream and generates over 90% of their profit.

  15. Apple is an excellent company. This whole crap that the company has bought patents from the Canadian company is untrue. The fact that this article contradicts itself proves it. Microsoft or android patents are crap, it’s completely used by cheap version sold expensive. Overpriced crap

    • tipsy mcstagger

      you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. you’re a blatant apple diehard, who believes anything not apple is inferior. kindly do some research on nortel networks prior to beaking off and making yourself look stupid. by the way, apple would be out of business if not for microsoft.

  16. Apple just needs to go in a hole and die. You think that they would be great full that the company is still around. Microsoft bailed out apple from going bankrupt in the mid 90’s. I hate apple with a passion I hope this turns into the HDDVD vs Blue ray war where this time apple is HDDVD and dies out

  17. Get a grip the lot of them are as bad as each other why not kiss make up and share the patents? That way all the apple sheep may not Have to pay hundreds for over priced old revamped technology!

  18. Richard Torcato

    Karma is a bitch isn’t it? Google had very few patents when they started. They copied/stole from everyone and when it was obvious they needed more patents they bought soon to be bankrupt Motorola. Instead of using Motorola’s patents to defend their products Google choose to sue companies with Motorola’s FRAND patents.

    Karma now has Google by the balls. This lawsuit couldn’t happen to a more deserving and evil company.

    • Hey, I bet even apple had little patents when they started BECAUSE NO ONE HAS PATENTS BEFORE THEY START.. You sound like an idiot.. Apple would put a patient on air if they could. They’re just mad because they can’t come up with new stuff.. I mean the biggest thing they’ve done lately is make colorful phones.. Ooo

  19. Biased much? Sony makes android phones as well. I also believe that Microsoft, RIM, (Now known as Blackberry), Sony and Apple are also rivals among themselves. This just seems to be they have the parents, others don’t, pay them to use it or stop at once.

  20. Blowntoaster

    What a load of crap. This nonsense should be thrown out of court to send a messsage to the patent troll losers.
    I suddenly hate Apple and Microsoft devices just that little bit more…

  21. Learn2Read

    “–If they lose, the fines they pay are simply money they SHOULD have spent on research in the beginning, instead go thieving. Research that Apple and the others actually did.”

    You plonker. These lawsuits relate to patents that Apple et al bought from a dead company like vultures, nothing to do with ‘research that Apple and the others actually did’. Some people.

    • Apple is just trying to keep their prices on the high side of an inferior product. If the can’t do it with hardware they will attack software that was in origin free. Anything for profit.

  22. Ludicrous, the world is coming to a stall because of these patent trolls, one thing is clear they couldn’t care less about innovation, its all about profits, brainwashing us with the same old crap and so called ‘innovation’ also in Texas of all states.. Bribery haven.

  23. Scott Sterling

    “Meanwhile, if Google and the manufacturers lose a jury verdict or agree to pay a settlement, the price they pay will be passed on to consumers through higher handset prices.”
    –Nope. In a free market, higher costs simply reduce profits. Period.

    “It’s too soon to say who will win, but one thing is certain: consumers will lose. Litigation at this scale costs tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars — money that could instead be based on research”
    –If they lose, the fines they pay are simply money they SHOULD have spent on research in the beginning, instead go thieving. Research that Apple and the others actually did.