Patent Troll Shell Company Owned By Microsoft And Apple Launches Massive Patent Attack On Android

from the but-of-course dept

About a year and a half ago, we wrote about "Rockstar Consortium," a shell company set up by Apple and Microsoft (and a few other companies), in which they placed many of the patents they received when they outbid Google to get Nortel's patents. We noted at the time that one of the reasons regulators let Apple, Microsoft, RIM and others team up to buy these patents without it being an antitrust concern was that they promised that all the patents would be able to be licensed on "reasonable terms." Except... once they handed them off to Rockstar, that company's CEO, John Veschi, noted that this promise "does not apply to us."

So, in a move that surprises basically no one, Rockstar Consortium has sued Google along with most of the major Android phone makers (Asustek, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE) claiming they violate a bunch of those old Nortel patents. This is yet another example of the obnoxious practice of privateering patents, where operating companies shuffle patents off to troll shell companies, to avoid having countersuits launched against their own products. It's pretty obvious that the lawsuits, two of which are listed below, are nothing more than Microsoft and Apple trying to put a dent in Android.

This has nothing to do with patents as innovation, and everything to do with patents trying to stifle competition. Again.




Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:01am

    Perhaps it is time that the terms granted to the 'non-owners' be introduced to the courts.
    Patents are supposed to protect those poor inventors, and it seems highly unfair that a party should pay a cent more than other parties who are also using the same "invention".

    It would be interesting for them to have to disclose how much MS & Apple paid for the rights to use the innovation, and that setting the bar.

    Patents are not supposed to be a weapon to stifle innovation so that others in the same space don't have to keep up with advances in technology.
    Patents are not supposed to generate a windfall to those who aren't competing.
    Patents are not supposed to be a gotcha, used after someone else put it into practice to line the pockets of those who do nothing with the innovation.

    How patents are being used are not beneficial to the public, who are supposed to benefit from these laws. Higher prices, crappier products, and even being sued for using a device in the market was never what was intended and it is high time this bullshit be put to an end.

    Patents, how they currently operate, merely benefit lawyers who are extracting wealth for doing no more than laying in weight for someone to step into the trap.

     

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      anonymouse, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 5:33am

      Re:

      Obviously the statement by Microsoft and Apple was a lie and they have used them as they said they would not, so the sale must be invalidated and the patents made free to everyone.
      Simple solution to a very bad situation. I just hope Google uses the fact that they said they were not going to allow the patents to be used in a patent war against them and get some type of compensation.

       

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        Derek Kerton (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re:

        The counter argument that Rockstar uses is that they are an independent company, and none of the shareholders have majority control.

        So if you try to hold Apple accountable for Rockstar, Apple just shrugs shoulders and says "They're out of control! What can we do? We're powerless. I hope they don't sue us [heh heh]."

         

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 12:36pm

      Re:

      "Patents are supposed to protect those poor inventors" And as such I think it is time they outlaw the selling of patents. If a company owns a patent and the company goes under the patent should be retired. No one can buy it and no one can sue over it.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:09am

    I think its now obvious who pays OOTB's wages....

     

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      out_of_the_blue, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:24am

      Re:

      Wrong! Satan pays them.

       

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      identicon
      out_of_the_blue, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 5:22am

      Re: 2 out of 11 are egregious out of the blue mentions for out_of_the_blue!

      Gosh, I'm flattered, kids. However, your stupidity makes me despair for the human species.

      Unrelated tag-line jammed in as Mike just doesn't re-write important enough pieces to bring it up:

      "Capitalism" in practice today means that your access to capital is only by paying high interest rates to The Rich, while their access to "capital" is at very low rates direct from government printing presses.

      01:22:37[b-485-1]

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:24am

    Though I despise patent trolls with the fury of a thousand thunderstorms, I feel no pity whatsoever for Google.

    They are slowly scrapping the Android Open Source Project - the only reason to pick Android in the first place - slowly, but surely tightening their grip on the ecosystem. It will become another walled garden soon.

    So Google can go die in a fire, as far as I am concerned.


    And for those who think that I am crazy, read this:

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/googles-iron-grip-on-android-controlling-open-source-by- any-means-necessary/

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/11/google-just-pulled-a-facebook-home-kitkat s-primary-interface-is-google-search/

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 8:01am

      Re:

      Biased sources lead to biased conclusions. Case in point: even if everything you're talking about comes true it still won't be a walled garden as that's something entirely different.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 8:43am

      Re:

      And for those who think that I am crazy, read this


      I read those, and while I don't think you're crazy, I do think you're overly hyperbolic.

      Those articles are talking about Google's completely optional closed-sourced applications. Nothing in those articles indicates that Google is making Android a walled garden. Open source android isn't going away.

       

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      Derek Kerton (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 9:10am

      Re:

      Lovers of open systems are still free to get on board with other totally open, Linux based mobile OSes, like Moblin. Except of course, that they all suck. And always have. But still, you're free to go there if that's what you truly want.

      But it turns out that developers, handset vendors, and customers all prefer the structure that can be provided by a strong hand on the rudder. Android not completely open, but it's not closed either. Yet it benefits greatly from the strong guidance provided by Google - an SDK, a roadmap, an app marketplace, etc.

      Google also has two versions, more or less. The more proprietary version they offer to their handset partners, and Android Open Source Project (ASOP) version. BTW, note that the handset partners have a lot of leeway in altering Android, adding credence to the "openness" of it.

      But if you want even more open than Android, I have a long list of mobile OSes that were mostly open. They all failed compared to their more structured counterparts.
      -java (I worked on this here in 1997-99)
      -Symbian went open in its dying throes
      -Moblin
      -Tizen
      -MeeGo
      -Mer
      -Jolla
      -Ubuntu Mobile

      Notice any big successes in that list? Me neither. It seems the one consistent defining characteristic of a fully open mobile platform is: terrible market adoption. So while a small cadre of true linux geeks continue to moan and try to reveal the "secret" that Android "isn't really open", the majority of us already know, and we don't care.

      In here is a GigaOm paper I co-authored on the subject.
      http://www.xirrus.com/cdn/pdf/gigaom_futureofwifi_final
      -Sailfish
      -Ubuntu mobile

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:25am

    In such a blatant case it would be nice to see the sale of the Nortel patents nulified.
    The companies that make up Rockstar Consortium would not get their money back as penalty and for the patents put up for sale again, but said companies involved on RC would not be allowed to bid as additional penalty.

     

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      Chris-Mouse (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:32am

      Re:

      Better yet, just have the Nortel patents nullified. Rockstar loses the money they paid as a penalty, and as an additional penalty, nobody can ever sue over those patents again.

       

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      Bergman (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 9:39am

      Re:

      This. If the only reason they have the patents at all is because they agreed to license them rather than lock them up, their failure to keep that promise should strip them of ownership.

      It's really no different than the not-quite-a-first-sale license doctrine the companies are all pushing. They sell you stuff, then claim it's a license not a sale despite the fact that they're following the rules for sales not licenses. Violate the license and the sale goes away.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:26am

    So Rockstar has some patents valued in 4. something billion and for which google offered just a bit less so it do not seems likely that they are invalid. And after what? two years? google and rockstar do not get to an agreement in licensing but is not Google that is trying to get them for free is Rockstar that is a patent troll.

    At this point we only know that Rockstar and Google are not in agreement and that Rockstar is only asking for money. Is too early to know if Rockstar is a troll or Google what to no have to pay a thing because it think that it can get away with it while their competitors has had to pay several billion dollar to purchase that licences

     

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:53am

      Re:

      Rockstar is Apple & Microsoft.
      They both have dodads in the market competing with Google.
      The patents can be used to stop Google from gaining marketshare and prop up the other companies offerings.

      I mean its not like there has been tit for tat bullshit keeping phones from being imported for sale... oh wait... Apple.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:57am

        Re: Re:

        So Apple & Microsoft has to pay 4.6 Billion$ to own the patent but google must be able to use them for free

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 5:18am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Google is not "using them."

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 5:56am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            To be fair, this has yet to be determined. The major issue is that Google's rivals are using mercantilist legislation to tax Google.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 6:20am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              The mayor issue is that the actual Patent legislation is that the one that invent something can tax a whoever implement it and this "right" can be buy and sell
              Of course this "rights" will end in the hand of one of the competitor in any field were the invention is usefull

               

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 8:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          They didn't have to pay $4.6 Billion, they chose to outbid Googles $4.4 Billion and the sale was only allowed to go ahead on the understanding that the patents would be made available at a reasonable price. A condition that would have applied to Google as well. They agreed to the rules of the sale, they should live up to them.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 10:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Two things:

          1. No one force them to pay anything for the patents.

          2. Paying 4.6 Billion$ to own the patent doesn't automatically mean that using them would or should cost anything as the two are not related to one another.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 9:29pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The purpose of patents isn't to make people pay to invent and innovate. The whole point is to promote the progress and encourage innovation. That the patent system has turned into a system where one must pay to use a technology or to innovate defeats the purpose. These patents are doing nothing to encourage innovation and are only harming it with the argument "but it's not fair that one party paid for the patents and the other party still gets to use the technology without paying". The question to be asked is does this promote the progress and social benefit. I believe the answer is no and so this is a criticism of the patent system. In fact, your post, in trying to assert a different purpose for patents, helps show why the patent system is broken.

           

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      gigglehurtz (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:55am

      Re:

      You do have a valid point, but still... Do you not see the shape of a duck? Can you not see it walk, can you not hear it quack?

      (apologies to Dan Rather)

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 6:13am

        Re: Re:

        If the article where "the software patents show again its ugly face" or "Patent instrument of war:another chapter".
        I would not have a problem.

        What I don't agree with is the Microsoft & Apple patent troll approach.

        Remember when forming what would became Rockstar, Google was offered a chair in the table and it decided to go alone do you thing Google wanted this patents all for itself to give them for free to the world? as has done with the ones of Motorola :P.

        Google, Apple and Microsoft are in a three ways patent war, there is no troll and no innocent just 3 very big companies trying to get the maximum advantage of the rules of the game that Google seem to be the worst player although seem to be the most loved by the public is no reason to be easy on them.


        With what we know right now prejudging that the one abusing the rules is Rockstar is with what I disagree.

        We know Google offered 4. Billion$ for this patents and Rockstar paid a bit more.

        we know Rockstar is only asking for money so the dispute is only for money not limiting production of anything and Google is not any short in cash small company easy bullied out of it.

        and that Google and Rockstar did not agree in how much Google should pay
        Apple & Microsft already paid 4.7? Billlion$

         

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          That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 8:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So because someone paid a fortune for something, it suddenly has that value?

          Your new car drops to half value when you drive off the lot.
          That diamond drops in value once you buy it.

          Just because you paid X doesn't entitle you to extract X.

          And as Rockstar is a separate entity, I'd still like to know how much others using the patents are paying them. I mean unless your charging different rates to hinder others in competition with you in the free market.

           

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          Mason Wheeler (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 9:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Alternate interpretation: Google knew that Rockstar was being formed as a patent trolling organization, and wanted nothing to do with such a filthy business. Instead, they tried to acquire the patents to keep them out of the hands of the trolls.

          Unlike Apple and Microsoft, Google does *not* have a long record of suing people over patents. I don't agree with everything they do, but in this particular case they're clearly the good guys.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 10:34am

          Re: Re: Re:

          This isn't rocket science: Google needed defensive patents and you can't use patents you jointly own with the people attacking you and your business partners defensively. Your approach to this entire subject about 'prejudging' is bullshit because it requires the author to completely ignore that there's a history between all the parties involved. It's not 'prejudging' it's taking the whole record into account.

           

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      Derek Kerton (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 9:15am

      Re:

      I love the circular argument that Google bidding for the patents validates that they are "good" patents.

      How about this alternate reality: Google bid for the patents so that they could prevent somebody else from suing them with said patents.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 4:46am

    and, of course, Congress will be all over this, trying to stamp out this wanton disgraceful behavior by two massive companies who want everything but want to give nothing! the reason is probably because the earnings were down a bit, bue to putting out shit products over the last year, whereas Google has given customers more of 'what they want' than more of 'get they are going to be given'!!

     

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    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 5:17am

    And Google bid only 4.4 BILLION on this for WHY?

    To do the same thing. And that bidding skewers Google because obviously it knows the portfolio is relevant.

    Disclaimer: I want to do away entirely with software patents. Working physical models only, just as the old days. -- By the way: in fifteen years, Mike hasn't made a single concrete proposal this area, either. And he's only writing here because his precious Google is on the wrong end of this particular unfair business practice.

    Economics is a non-science that makes fantasies to flatter plutocrats, an easy path to a degree for those who inherit, who remain willfully ignorant of the effects on laborers.

    01:15:43[b-226-7]


    [I see the kids are out early, stealing my valuable screen name. That's why I have to defend it with the above time stamp. -- And I'm pleased to do so! Shows my effect here, besides is fun to frustrate the ankle-biters! You haven't ever run me off, kids.]

     

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    Ninja (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 5:26am

    They can nuke themselves into oblivion as far as I'm concerned. Hopefully Google answers with the same ballistic approach.

    The sad part is usually unseen: the small folks and the innovation that gets stuck in the crossfire.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 5:33am

    Rockstar (games) might have an issue with Rockstar (troll) causing detrimental name recognition issues.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 5:38am

    1. Does anyone here seriously believe that Google has been sitting on its thumbs all this time blissfully ignorant of how various of these patents would be asserted? Google is many things (as are the other defendants), but stupid is not one of them.

    @. Troll? You cannot be serious! Has the definition of troll now been expanded to embrace companies that actually make, sell, and service things, but engage in a means for conducting litigation providing them a tactical advantage?

    3. Try and recapture some market share. The fact that companies using competing operating systems in the phone/tablet market should tell people something, namely the distinct possibility that the "Android" family of phone and tablet manufacturers may not have been playing by the "rules" of business. Use your own stuff and quit reaching over the transom to cherry pick that which suits your needs.

    It seems to me that the only purpose of this article is to once again regurgitate the deep seated animus here towards anything associated with copyright and patent law that involves the assertion of rights long ago created and recognized by law.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 6:09am

      Re:

      "It seems to me that the only purpose of this article is to once again regurgitate the deep seated animus here towards anything associated with copyright and patent law that involves the assertion of rights long ago created and recognized by law."

      So, by your logic, before the civil war the north was wrong to have deep hatred towards slavery and the whole slavery system? Because you know, slavery was created and recognized by law centuries earlier, so the north clearly had 'deep seated animus here towards anything associated with' slavery.

      Just because it's the law and established doesn't mean it's morally right, and doesn't mean it's a good law that benefits the economy (as slavery and the copyright/patent system were both supposed to do).

       

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      •  
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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 6:38am

        Re: Re:

        Yes, patent infringement and associated lawsuits are on the same plane as slavery. Curious what other absurd analogies you have up your sleeve.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 6:40am

          Re: Re: Re:

          This isn't a surprise. Copyright enforcers often equate copyright infringement to murder and rape.

           

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          •  
            identicon
            Bob Robertson, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 7:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Thus the term "piracy", with its overtones of murder and robbery, used to condemn those who merely share.

             

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 10:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Can't address the point made? Make up a point you can address!

          No one put slavery and patents 'on the same plane' except your curious retort. What was said was that the logic you applied basically works out to 'the law should never ever change or recognize it was wrong or allowed something grossly immoral to happen.'

           

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 11:28am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "There are unjust laws, as there are unjust Men." Ghandi.

           

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      •  
        identicon
        Bob Robertson, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 7:30am

        Re: Re: Argument from Antiquity

        Very well said, A.C.

        The argument from antiquity is one used all the time.

        There is also the problem of judging a program by the claims used to justify it, rather than by its actual results.

        No matter how lofty and altruistic the claims made to justify Patent and Copyright, those claims cannot justify the awful results of the actual laws used to enact them.

         

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    •  
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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 9:21am

      Re:

      1. Google knew that Nortel's patents could be used against them and that is why they also bid on Nortel's patents. Google also realized that it didn't matter what they bid, because Rockstar would outbid them.

      2. When did Rockstar make, sell, and service things? They are by every definition, a troll.

      3. I don't know who you are saying should try to recapture market share. I would say Microsoft, Apple, RIM, etc should be trying to recapture market share instead of throwing money at lawyers to do the work for them.

       

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        Anonymous Howard (profile), Nov 5th, 2013 @ 6:14am

        Re: Re:

        This.

        M$ and the gray fruit bought the patents, promising not to use it to litigate, but license it.
        They circumvented this condition by passing the patents to a shell company.

        It'd be interesting to see what the courts have to say about this.

        Also: Fuck patents already. No productive and innovative company needs them to innovate.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 10:49am

      Re:

      The definition of troll has always included and more or less exclusively is 'buying a patent with the intention of litigating with it.' Frequently those are NPEs but not always.

       

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  •  
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    Guardian, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 6:12am

    time ot stop buying lawyers products

    apple and micrcrap are no more software companies then any law firm now...all they see is lawsuit values and share prices.....

    well fuck you fromthe rest of the planet


    and how awful is that stupid looking windows 8
    NO really grade 2 squares and 6 colors

    apple without jobs = just a bunch a spoiled brat lawyers

    dont care they sue google the nsa spy buddy, but hey apple and micro crap also are buds of the nsa , time to start leaking the nsa holes in your operating systems a little at a time much like a snowden release

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 8:39am

    If ever there was proof that intellectual property is anti innovation, this is it.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    It's time to do away with patents. They cause more harm than good, stifle innovation, and cause products and services to become unaffordable.

    In other words, patents do the complete opposite of what their stated benefits are supposed to be. Which is increase innovation, as well as making health care and food more affordable.

    The complete opposite!

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 9:37pm

      Re:

      I agree. and the same is true for govt. established broadcasting and cableco monopolies (for commercial or private use). The same is true for govt established taxi cab monopolies. I am sick and tired of government passing anti-competitive laws just because politicians want campaign contributions and revolving door favors. The revolving door problem has gotten completely out of control and our laws are not driven by what's in the public interest but what's in the interest of a few industry players. Look at, for instance, 95+ year copy protection lengths and retroactive extensions. Politicians should be jailed for passing laws just so that they can get revolving door favors in return. I'm sick and tired of it. NO MORE ANTI-COMPETITIVE LAWS!!!!

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Patents are just a lie. We should get rid of them ASAP.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    anonymous coward, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 3:19pm

    Prior Art Will Invalidate the Main Patent

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 4:15pm

    Patent Troll Shell Company

    wait, not weight.

     

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