Google’s landmark lawsuit against Rockstar, a company owned by Apple, Microsoft and Blackberry, provides interesting irony for those familiar with high profile tech patent cases in which all major tech players have participated. The Rockstar suit pits the biggest names in the industry squarely against each other.

In March 2013, Apple Inc.  was awarded a stunning verdict for patent infringement against high tech competitor Samsung Electronics, Inc. Claiming that Samsung had improperly copied Apple technology on 20 different devices, Apple filed a $2.75 billion patent infringement suit. The jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages, sending a chilling message heard round the world.

Judge Kuhn, who heard the case, reduced the award to $450.5 million pending a second trial to determine the exact amount of the award. In the meantime, the two tech giants are preparing for another round of suits to commence in the Spring. In the upcoming trial, Apple is suing for patent infringements on a number of Android products.

Patent lawsuits are commonly called patent trolling. The practice of patent trolling has increased since Apple, Microsoft and Blackberry acquired the rights to many patents formerly owned by the defunct Canadian firm Nortel in 2012. The purchase price for these patents was a hefty $4.5 billion.

The Evolution of Rockstar

After acquiring the rights to these patents, Apple, Microsoft and Blackberry formed Rockstar for the express purpose of protecting their patent rights. Rockstar exists to find patent infringements and pursue litigation or settlement for infringements.

Rockstar is acknowledged to be the most powerful patent troll enterprise on the planet. Surprisingly, Rockstar employs a handful of workers. The employees are primarily testers whose job is to test existing products from other manufacturers to determine any patent infringements, especially as might involve Nortel infringements.

If the possibility of an infringement is detected by the company’s Ontario-based engineers, Rockstar unleashes its considerable legal arm upon the infringing company. If settlement is not reached, an expensive lawsuit will follow. Many industry experts feel Rockstar is practicing extortion. However, like it or not, Rockstar is a force to be reckoned with in the highly competitive Tech industry.

Google Responds

In October, Rockstar launched a series of lawsuits against numerous Android manufacturers, some of which threatened Google’s profitable Android partners. One of Google’s key Android partners is ASUS, the manufacturer that has been instrumental in the development of Google’s Nexus product line.

In its suit against Rockstar, Google claims that the company exists for the sole purpose of examining successful products developed by other companies with the intent of demanding and extracting licenses to the patents under the threat of litigation.

It should be noted that Google also attempted to acquire the rights to the Nortel patents but could not match the price offered by the Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry conglomerate. To say there is bad blood is putting it lightly but Google has the resources to fight back against Rockstar.

The Google – Rockstar lawsuit is scheduled to take place in 2014. However, the US Supreme Court has said it will make a decision about the same time as to whether software patent lawsuits have a place in the US court system. If the Supreme Court decides that the cases cannot be heard, Google’s case will disappear as will Rockstar itself.

Hiland Doolittle

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