Google sues Apple-backed Rockstar over patents

Attempting to short-circuit a series of patent suits filed by the Apple-backed Rockstar consortium against its Android device partners, Google earlier this week filed its own suit against the group.

The search giant is asking a court for a declaration that it and its partners aren’t infringing Rockstar’s patents.

Filed on Monday  in San Jose in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Google’s initial complaint offers no evidence or reasoning to show that it isn’t violating the seven different patents that Rockstar has charged Google and its partners of violating. Instead, Google in the complaint charges Rockstar and its backers of trying to use lawsuits to harm Android and flatly asserts that it doesn’t infringe the patents.

“Google has not caused, directed, requested, or facilitated any such infringement, much less with specific intent to do so,” the company says in its complaint. “Neither the (Google’s own) Nexus devices nor Google’s Android platform are designed for use in any combination which infringes any claim of the (Rockstar)  patents. To the contrary, each is a product with substantial uses that do not infringe any claim of these patents.”

The lawsuit can be seen as a consequence of the auction held in 2011 for patents held by Nortel, a bankrupt telecommunications company. Although Google participated in the auction, Rockstar, a group formed by Apple, Google, BlackBerry and other tech companies, won it with a $4.5 billion bid.

Armed with the Nortel patents, Rockstar sought to get licensing agreements from other tech companies, particularly those using Android. Earlier this year, it filed suit against Samsung, Asus, HTC and other Android licensees charging that they infringed some of the Nortel patents.

The tussle over the Nortel patents is the latest front in the ongoing patent war between Google and its allies partners and Apple, Microsoft and other tech companies. Over the last three years, Google’s Android has come to dominate the market for smartphone operating systems and, more recently, it has become a leading player in tablet operating systems also. Over a similar time period, leading Android licensee Samsung has become the dominant maker of smartphones and an increasingly important player in tablets.

But Google’s rivals have long charged that it and its partners were able to gain success in large part by copying innovations developed elsewhere. Oracle filed suit against Google in 2010, charging the company with infringing its copyrights on the Java programming language. Google was largely able to fend off that suit, but Samsung hasn’t had as much luck in battling Apple. A jury last year found that the Korean company’s products “willfully” violated numerous Apple patents.

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (226 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.