Google and Apple prepare to battle for more patents
Coming off a quirky but vigorous battle over Nortel's extensive patent library, Google and Apple are getting ready for round two. InterDigital, based in Pennsylvania, has 8,800 patents related to mobile phone technology. And today The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google has been showing some interest after their Nortel setback.
Unlike other Rupert Murdoch properties, the Wall Street Journal's information seems to come from legitimate sources, not to mention it has been strengthened by InterDigital's hiring of Evercore Partners and Barclays Capital to oversee a potential sale of the company. With over 8,000 patents covering handsets and wireless standards, Google may not be the only major player vying for InterDigital's patent portfolio.
Bloomberg, following up on the initial Wall Street Journal story, reported that Apple is also interested in the valuable patents. Apple, currently holding a large patent library, doesn't have an obvious need for the patents, but with almost $80 billion in cash, they can afford to spend money to keep the patents out of Google's hands. Google's relatively small patent library, especially weak in the mobile sector, may end up hindering the Android platform and thus benefit Apple over the long term. It's a shrewd play by Apple, but for consumers, it could lead to a horrible outcome.
Whatever mobile operating system you pledge allegiance to, root for Google in this battle. Continued competition between the wireless players will benefit customers. It will force Apple to spend money on innovation, something that they haven't really shown in their iterative iPhone releases since its inception in 2007, while allowing Google to continue providing Android as free, open-source software. Keeping Android open-source and unencumbered by patents allows, among other things, small startups to use sophisticated software at minimal cost. Microsoft is already claiming patent rights to Android and Apple has already entered that battle. It's time for Google to join the arms race.
So Google, feel free to bid awesomely interesting numbers but don't give up this time, because not only do you need to win this, we need you to as well.