Another big fight over mobile tech patents is looming this week in a Delaware courtroom, where Google’s Motorola division is set to defend against several claims from Intellectual Ventures, the big patent aggregation firm headed by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold.
With so many patent disputes pending in the mobile tech world, we don’t have the bandwidth here at Silicon Beat to track them all. But this one is worth noting: If the case doesn’t settle at the last minute, Reuters’ ace legal reporter Dan Levine notes, it will be the first time that Intellectual Ventures has taken one of its claims to a full court trial.
The face-off comes as Congress is preparing to tackle complaints about patent trolls in new legislation. And the case may be cited by both sides in that debate.
Intellectual Ventures is a firm that primarily buys and licenses patents, rather than inventing new technology on its own, and frequently uses those patents to pursue legal claims against other companies. Google and other critics have argued this kind of business model is a nuisance that just clogs the process of tech innovation. But IV insists it’s not a troll that tries to make money from frivolous claims; instead, the firm says it helps inventors and tech companies protect their intellectual property.
In the current dispute, IV says Motorola violated several patents for mobile software technology, including software used in Google Play, the popular online store that sells apps, games and digital entertainment. (Intellectual property blogger Florian Mueller reports that Google Play is also the subject of other complaints from Nokia.)
In the not-so-small world department, Levine reports that Google was a very early investor in Intellectual Ventures, although it has not joined later funding rounds, while Apple and Microsoft – both Google rivals – are also IV investors.
In another sign this world isn’t so big, Forbes blogger George Anders points out that Google just acquired a significant stack of patents for home-automation technology, through its $3.2 billion acquisition of smart-thermostat-maker Nest Labs. Nest, in turn, had licensed a number of patents from Intellectual Ventures.
(Mercury News illustration by Doug Griswold)