Google arms Android allies with patents, starting with HTC
HTC is suing Apple and contained in the lawsuit are nine patents acquired from Google. And, according to a Bloomberg article, four of them were originally Motorola patents (prior to the spin-off and acquisition), three were from Open Wave Systems, and two from Palm (before joining HP). First, who knew Google even had these patents? And second, we've just seen the first move in Google's strategy to defend Android; hire hit men to take out their opponents.
Google's public statements have centered around how broken the US patent system has become. By suing companies for patent infringement, Google would look no better than the companies they complain about. But, by allowing Android partners to use the patents to counter-sue anyone who comes after them, Google has sent out a warning message. Google is the muscle. Any company who is going to sue an Android manufacturer for using the mobile OS will have to take on Google as well.
It's not exactly the indemnification that most manufacturers would prefer, but it does give smaller companies the clout to stand up to the likes of Microsoft and Apple. If this is indeed a patent war, Google is lining up numerous allies and supplying their ammunition. This is still early days, but if HTC wins this suit, it will be interesting to see if Apple, Microsoft et al back down from their litigious tendencies and leave Android alone.
An interesting aside; what happens to these patents once this lawsuit is over? Does Google take them back or do they stay with HTC forever? It might make more sense to create a patent pool similar to MPEG LA. But, instead of pooling patents to sue others, the pool can be used to defend against patent lawsuits. That would not only protect manufacturers, but also strengthen their commitment to the Android platform over the long haul.