The handset market appears to be overrun with lawsuits, but consultant and FOSS Patents blogger Florian Mueller says that litigation is the exception, and licensing is the norm. Every day, there are deals being done behind closed doors. But, lately, as competition has increased, mobile device makers have taken it to the courtroom. (See Handset Makers Air Patent Grievances.)
"A lot of people think a patent is the right to do something, but it's the right to sue someone for doing something," Mueller says. "If you look at what a patent covers, it's an idea or concept. If you implement that idea, you may violate 10 other patents."
Since Android is a relatively new project in an established market, it has to succumb to licensing fees more often than not. The question for Google's ecosystem is whether it can make up for lost time by acquiring Moto's 17,000-patent deep portfolio. (See Google & Moto: Beyond the Patently Obvious.)
It won't be an easy fight. Android handset makers are facing patent battles on two fronts: against Apple, which does not have a track record of licensing, wanting instead to block companies from selling devices or cause them to modify designs, and against Microsoft, which simply wants to collect as much in licensing fees as it can.
Thursday's news that both Acer Inc. and ViewSonic Corp. have signed on as Microsoft licensees rather than wait for Google's supposed shield doesn't bode well for the Android ecosystem. Likewise, Moto hasn't been immune to lawsuits after the merger was announced either.
Patents & posturing
Here's a snapshot of the handset makers' latest shake-ups and patent holdings that suggest the patent warring won't be over anytime soon.
Microsoft is currently suing Motorola and Barnes & Noble, amongst others, for patent infringement. (See Microsoft Takes Moto Back to Court and What Google-Moto Means for Microsoft.)
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile