Google’s tactical acquisition of Motorola was a disruptive move in the ongoing patent wars and it appears Apple got the memo. In its suit against Motorola, Apple on Friday asked for a hold on two of the patent cases. The reason? Apple says that the acquisition has resulted in a “fundamental loss of Motorola’s patent rights,” thus completely changing the landscape of the patent suit. Basically, Apple is worried that no matter which party wins in the lawsuit, it could easily be overturned by either of the two participants or a third-party based on changes in criteria in the litigation. That being the case, Apple does not want to spend the time, money, and effort for nothing, right?
According to Florian Mueller, a patent blogger for FOSS patents, it goes deeper.
Note that Apple’s lawyers simply seek to capitalize on Google’s and MMI’s own statements, knowing that Google and MMI can’t contradict them. Nowhere do they say that MMI’s patents are strong enough to serve the stated goal of protecting the Android ecosystem: this is just about the official motivation. In connection with motions to stay patent cases, the patent-centric rationale provided by the parties for the deal simply comes in handy, regardless of what Apple’s management may truly think of those patents.
Bascially, what he’s saying is that Apple is not admitting whether or not they think they would win, but are taking the moment to acknowledge Google’s and Motorola’s statements involving their ties to each other, leaving little wiggle room for a cross-argument from Google or Motorola to block the hold on the patent suits.
Another interesting paragraph involves Google’s timing in purchasing Motorola.
In fact, a key motivation on Google’s part may have been to acquire MMI before it might, for example, have agreed to pay royalties to Microsoft, considering that MMI is in serious trouble against Microsoft. A formal capitulation by MMI — in the form of taking a royalty-bearing license — would have been a disaster for Android at large, presumably resulting in each and every other Android company also recognizing a need to take such a license. MMI’s patents aren’t as strong as many people believe, but it’s much stronger than most of the other Android device makers, so if even MMI had failed to defend itself, that would have been a very meaningful event.
Motorola has yet to reply to the idea of a hold of the two patent suits in question, but we’ll keep an eye on the proceedings.