Why is Google so interested in buying up patents? According to Alex Poltorak, chairman and chief executive of the intellectual property firm General Patent Corp., patents are the ammunition in the gunfight of litigation, and Google’s clip is comparatively empty.
“Google is at a disadvantage in this arms race,” Poltorak said. “They have very little by way of patents. They got in too late in the game and, in the early history of the company, were patent-averse. They didn’t file for patents even though they were coming up with new technology.”
Poltorak said that getting the Nortel patents would have been key for Google, but that the utility of the IBM patents remain to be seen. If patents are part of licensing agreements, Poltorak said, they become far less useful. That would be the problem with Google acquiring patents from companies such as InterDigital or Motorola Mobility, both of which have been floated as potential buys for Google, Poltorak said.
“As one of the major industry players, [IBM is] party to numerous licensing agreements with other companies,” he said. “What remains to be see is what is left of these patents, how widely have these patents been licensed before.”
Google general counsel Kent Walker recently told Bloomberg that patent litigation is “gumming up innovation” and urged the U.S. government to rein in patent litigation.
Poltorak doesn’t agree. “Had they won the [Nortel] auction, they would be promoting the patent value and hailing the patent system from every corner,” he said, laughing. “But because they lost it, they’ve said we have to curb patent license litigation.”