Google's building a massive patent stockpile, new report shows

From its early days as an Internet upstart, Google wasn’t known as a company that rushed to patent its own inventions. Its flagship mobile software, Android, was based on an open-source model.  But a new report shows that, after some bruising legal battles with competitors alleging patent infringement by Android products, Google is rapidly building its own sizable warchest of tech patents.

Google is on pace to receive 1,800 patents this year, a number that’s especially stunning when compared to the measly four patents the company was awarded in 2003, according to the report in MIT Technology Review.

The report traces the escalation in part to the explosion of mobile technology and related battles over mobile software:  Back in 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone, Google had only 38 patents. But according to the review’s Antonio Regalado, Google has roughly doubled the pace at which it has earned new patents in every year since then. That puts Google on track to rival Apple among the most prolific patent-winning software companies, though still lagging IBM and Microsoft.

In addition, Google has said its $12.5 billion deal to buy device-maker Motorola Mobility was aimed in part at acquiring that company’s trove of 17,000 patents. And it’s purchased more than 1,000 patents from IBM and other companies.

All told, the Technology Review reported that Google has accumulated 51,000 patents and pending applications. Recent patents include technology that might be incorporated into Glass, the company’s wearable Internet device, as well as ideas for its self-driving car, voice-enabled software and flying wind turbines.

Still, the report notes that Google, which has sharply criticized rival tech companies for using patents to stifle competition and innovation, has continued to support patent reform legislation that would make it more difficult to use patents as offensive weapons in court.

(Photo of Google logo sign by Brandon Bailey)

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (338 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.