gavelNobody likes patent trolls probably not even other patent trolls and it looks for once as if they are finally getting a taste of their own medicine. Rockstar Consortium is in its own words “an intellectual property (IP) licensing company”, which is a polite way to say patent troll. The company produces nothing and only employs lawyers and accountants to go around suing other companies. This particular patent troll was created by a consortium including Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Ericsson, and Sony. The last name on the list is almost unforgivable as what this particular consortium does it sue Android companies, probably at the direction of Apple and Microsoft. The main weapons in Rockstar’s arsenal are a large number of patents it bought when the Canada-based telecom company Nortel went bankrupt.

Although Rockstar claim to “celebrate the value and power of innovation,” five cable companies are attempting to get it to stop bullying tech companies. They have filed a suit claiming Rockstar refused to discuss licensing terms and is unfairly demanding royalties for unspecified patents. The filing also says that Rockstar tried to force the cable companies into non-disclosure agreements to stop them discussing the details with other companies. The suit is asking the court to punish Rockstar for conspiracy and for misusing patents.

We celebrate the value and power of innovation: the ideas that fuel a better way of doing things.

Rockstar’s victim’s are wide spread and it looks like some are finding ways to settle. At the end of October 2013 it sued Google, Samsung, HTC, Huawei and other companies for patent infringements. While the other cases are still continuing it looks like Huawei has found a way to end its attack from Rockstar. 

In a motion filed this week both Huawei and Rockstar jointly requested dismissal of the lawsuit. Although the filing did not specify that a settlement had been reached, it is likely that a deal has been done. If a deal has been made and Huawei are comfortable with the terms (meaning they aren’t outrageous) then it could pave the way for other companies to settle. Since Rockstar paid $4.5 billion for the Nortel patents the company is probably looking for lots of money to cover its expenses. But it is unlikely that the consortium will be as accommodating with Google and Samsung. as it has been with Huawei.

Google is accused of infringing seven of Rockstar’s patents all of which are related to technology that helps match search terms to advertising. Since advertising is Google’s main source of income such a lawsuit could be potentially harmful. Google isn’t taking this beating laying down and has counter sued Rockstar saying that the company is unfairly targeting Google’s Android partners and customers.

One bit of good news is that Bloomberg reported in December that the consortium was in talks to sell some of its IP because it hasn’t been able to obtain that many licensing agreements.

What do you think? Should patent trolls be banned or are they an important way of protecting innovation?

Gary Sims
Gary has been a tech writer for over a decade and specializes in open source systems. He has a Bachelor's degree in Business Information Systems. He has many years of experience in system design and development as well as system administration, system security and networking protocols. He also knows several programming languages, as he was previously a software engineer for 10 years.
  • MasterMuffin

    They are important way protecting innovation!

    Lololololol not :D

  • Bandwidth Bandito

    This is totally against the spirit of what protecting intellectual property should be about. It makes the concept of IP a joke, and a bad one at that. Any company that is not actively involved in R&D or improving their current IP should have it stripped away from them. It should be possible to audit such companies and if they fail the test of authenticity they are legally shut down. If they turn out to be a shell for another companies or a consortium those links should be made public and the companies involved shamed for their shitty and anti competitive behavior.

  • williamsteven

    That rockstar (crappiest company of all time) has just been punished brutally with $4.5bn by Nortel and serves them right lol. Losers with nothing to do in their life.

  • The author conveniently failed to mention that Google itself made a bid for the same patents that this ‘patent troll’ is now using to sue but lost out to the Apple-Microsoft consortium. Obviously Google thought these patents were worth having or else it wouldn’t have tried to buy them in the first place.

    • storm14k

      If you could have the patents and keep from getting sued wouldn’t that make sense? This doesn’t mean they were going to use the patents to sue anyone proactively. Having patents and using them are two different things.

      And if I’m not mistaken Google was asked to join in with the group but they probably figured they would be used to patent troll. They instead put in a troll bid and made the others pay more than the patents were probably worth. Trust if Google wanted these patents for the same reason they’d be a part of the consortium.

  • Jayfeather787

    Just stupid. Not protecting innovation, just being a dumbass and wanting money. I guess everyone wants money, but this is in the most annoying way possible.

  • Nathan Borup

    A company full of lawyers and accountants… sounds like a blast

  • Cal Rankin

    This company has one goal: to make money off of scaring competition. This should not be acceptable at all. This seems like an antitrust violation.

  • Lisandro O Oocks

    Couldn’t Google and the gang just pay licensing fees to begin with?