Patent war escalates: Apple and Microsoft-owned company sues Google and most big Android OEMs

by: Bogdan PetrovanNovember 1, 2013


The intensity and scale of the global patent war just went up a notch. Yesterday, a company that is co-owned, among others, by Apple and Microsoft filed lawsuits against Google and seven of the largest Android manufacturers.

Rockstar Bidco

The company is called Rockstar, and was established as a consortium in 2011, to bid on the trove of technology patents left behind by the bankrupt Canadian technology company Nortel.

Back then, Apple, Microsoft, RIM (now BlackBerry), Ericsson, and Sony teamed up to bid for almost 6,000 of Nortel’s patents, many covering mobile technology. The so-called Rockstar Bidco consortium eventually won the auction, with a bid of $4.5 billion. The other big competitor in the auction was Google, who bid $4.4 billion before giving up. Later, Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion, and its own treasure trove of patents was reportedly one of the main reasons behind the acquisition.

Rockstar was widely expected to attempt to monetize the 6,000 patents it bought from Nortel, and this week the company made its first move by filing lawsuits against Google, Asustek, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE. The suits were filed in the Eastern District of Texas, a district that is well known for favoring plaintiffs in patent cases.

Patent trolling through a proxy

The complaint against Google involves six patents related to serving ads in a search engine describing “an advertisement machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network”. The technology isn’t related to mobile, but it’s a frontal attack to Google’s bread and butter business, AdWords. The oldest patent precedes Google’s founding, being awarded in 1997, while the newest was awarded in 2011.

Rockstar attacked the group of Android manufacturers with a batch of seven diverse patents, including ones that pertain to navigation through electronic interfaces or to an integrated message center.

The stakeholders of Rockstar claim that the consortium acts independently. And, because Rockstar doesn’t have any operations of its own, Google, and other companies in its sights, can’t retaliate with a countersuit, like Samsung did with Apple.

Because Rockstar is a distinct entity, it can even sue companies that its owners have patent agreements with – for instance, Apple and HTC signed a 10-year patent licensing deal, but that didn’t shelter the Taiwanese company from Rockstar’s suit. Sony, as a stakeholder in Rockstar and a major Google Android partner, is also in an interesting position.

Patent lawsuits can take years to finalize, and it’s not clear yet if the patents that Rockstar yields as a weapon against Google and Android OEMs are essential to their business. In other words, there’s a long way to go before these lawsuits have any tangible effects. However, the fact that Rockstar has finally commenced its attack should be worrying for consumers, who have absolutely nothing to gain from it.



  • Dimitar Gospodinov

    oh Apple invented ads too…I did not see that one coming…my forhead turning red from facepalming myself….

    • Mozaik

      Another 21 dickheaded , don’t even read article.

  • MrClean

    I thought they just passed a law against patent trolls? I think if you are not actually using the patents you shouldn’t be able to sue for damages.

    • Aniruddh

      I bet Obama’ll favour Apple (again)

      • Dimitar Gospodinov

        yeah Google should just give up ‘couse even if they win Obama will let Apple f*ck him in the a$$ again…

        • Joshua Hill

          Simple soultion, Google and it’s Android ecosystem should just boycott the U.S.A. :p Sorry to everyone in the U.S.A.

          • Ruben

            They should boycott Apple. By making YouTube, Maps, Search, Gmail etc. Android only features. No one with an iPhone would want an iPhone if he / she couldn’t access Google, YouTube, Gmail Maps!

          • Aniruddh

            Yeah, and then Apple will make Apple Search, Apple Tube, Apple+ and what not. Full of bugs, of course.

          • Ruben

            Those won’t be nearly as good as the Google ones.. If Google wouldn’t announce the boycott Apple wouldn’t even have any time to make those.

          • BB BB

            Ain’t that the truth. They can’t even integrate IMAP idle Push in their mail app to support GMail.

        • Ruben

          That’s bull$hit! The independent judge should make the decision. When he / she did that Obama hasn’t got anything to do with that! The USA is certainly not democratic: censorship (dirty words), only 2 parties, no trias politica, electoral college etc. etc.

          • Aniruddh

            Don’t you remember that Obama vetoed the ban on iPhones but not on Samsung phones?

  • chirag

    “district that is well known for favoring plaintiffs in patent cases.” LoL.

  • Aniruddh

    Apple is just tarnishing its own reputation. Not surprised to see Microsoft, a company which makes more money with products of other companies than with it’s own products, joining in. This may cost the companies some money, but I bet Samsung has a separate account to pay for lawsuit penalties now lol (and Apple has a separate account to receive all that cash)

    • frankie

      they cant even pay royalty taxes in france

    • Ruben

      They might still have the truck in which they delivered a huge amount of money in the form of 5 pences…

  • Nathan Borup

    This is a new low for apple… never thought they could get lower

    • NeedName

      Apple has been doing this proxy crap for a while. . . people are just oblivious to it — they hid it very well.

      MS is the king of this BS, but they usually only want licensing fees where apple wants to ban products for craptastic patents. . .

      Nonetheless, I really don’t give a rats a$$ about it. . . they are all large companies that only want our money and could care less about customers as Google pointed out with the no kitkat for gNexus customers. . .and the official Android only gets 18 months of updates.

      So, why should any of us care at all?

      Firefox OS anyone?

      • Nathan Borup

        you know, google does a heck of a lot more than just provide mobile services. they provide your email, your storage space, your world-class search engine, mobile device services that no one else can provide. On top of all of this, they provide updates to your mobile device for 18 months (for free, mind you). What exactly have you done for them? You haven’t paid google any money, just OEMs that make the devices. Google offers these services free, so i wouldn’t complain. In the words of Louis CK you’re a “non-contributing zero” to them and you expect them to go out of the way to provide for you? In all honesty, just get a new phone, or i guess you’ll just have to put up with the terrible android jelly bean for another 6 months

        • ROD JOS

          Google gets money from every Android phone sold, plus where do users buy their content? It’s from the Google Play Store. AndroidOS have 81% share of the smartphone pie, in fact, Google is the one who rakes in most of the moolah from the market. They make Nexus devices for people to use their store, even up to the point that they have minimal revenue from it.

          • Nathan Borup

            You are very ignorant… google does not get any money off of android phones. Only the OEM’s that make them get the profit/revenue. Content from the play store goes to the artist/developers who paid to have their songs/apps/movies on the play store, so that all the proceeds are then going to the artist/developer. Google makes its money purely off of advertising. Read this article (, it actually says google spends tons of money on android, making none in return other than in the form of advertising. Next time you decide to chime in make sure to do your research

          • Guest

            Actually, Google sorta’ does make money off most Android phones — at least those with google services, via ads, the play store, search, etc. . .

            Google has the same split in the play store as apple, maybe you’re a little ignorant on that subject.

            And if you are going to link to an article, make sure it’s relevant. . . 2010 for Android is VERY outdated. . .

          • Nathan Borup

            Look, if you want to get technical, google makes 30% off every app sold in the app store. That income is an advertising/hosting service that they charge for because they are providing the means to advertise the app to you and the means for you to download it. Also when it comes down to phones, the only money google “makes” is from Motorola which actually costs more in business expenses than it makes. Google is not a hardware provider like apple is, and google’s software (outside of it’s apps–which it does make money on–that are licensed to carriers) is open source and open to anyone. Either way you talk about this, google is providing a TON of free services in trade for your INFORMATION, not money. 96% of google’s income is comprised of advertising (which, by the way, is NOT your money, it’s the businesses that pay to have their websites/services/inventory advertised)

          • Jesse Afolabi

            ignorant fu*k

        • NeedName

          Actually no, they really don’t provide “18 months” of updates for my mobile device. I will get less than 1 year total updates for my Nexus as I purchased midyear.

          And as @ef6bb528774eb4da42dc162e801319c5:disqus states, google cashes in on everything I use, and I’ve used tons of Google products over the years, but I’m dumping them now — between the NSA, Google’s piss poor designs of late, and piss poor Android supports. . . f’ it.

          Seriously, Chrome OS gets much better support and I can buy that for less. . .

          So, suck Google’s balls a little harder and try for another BS excuse for them!

    • Mozaik

      Dick head apple didn’t sued google it was rockstar , and other 35 liked are just dick head like you.just read the damn article before you come to conclusion.

      • Nathan Borup

        Yes it was rockstar, but rockstar is owned by apple, microsoft, blackberry and sony. This “proxy sueing” is something that apple, microsoft and other companies have been doing for a while. I was referring to the fact that it is a new low for apple to combine with other companies (that used to be enemies) to try to take down google. Look who is the dickhead now, dickhead

        • Mozaik

          But rockstar still run it , and they are suing it apple and other has nothing to with this , they joined nortel

          • Nathan Borup

            Apparently you didn’t read. “Rockstar was widely expected to attempt to monetize the 6,000 patents it bought from Nortel”… meaning they bought patents from nortel, they aren’t a part of nortel. It seems you missed the whole Patent trolling through proxy portion of the article where it says “The stakeholders of Rockstar claim that the consortium acts independently. And, because Rockstar doesn’t have any operations of its own, Google, and other companies in its sights, can’t retaliate with a countersuit, like Samsung did with Apple.” We all know that rockstar was affected or pushed toward this by their parent companies

          • Mozaik

            That’s why apple joined to not get sued like google is getting today , are you that idiot will Sony sue Google which run google OS on its smartphone .

          • Nathan Borup

            For the record, it is NOT google’s OS. It is open source

          • Mozaik

            Android is open source but , if your smartphone use plays tore and other google apps than you have to license to google for using and sony license to google for using google apps package . So I tell you again will Sony sue Google which earned profit in mobile sector due android.

  • Claude Poirier

    Here we go again, why not just concentrate your efforts on research instead of lawsuits…. …. Oh yeah right, you’re just a bunch of duch8ags who can’t innovate anymore :-)

  • cycad007

    Interesting…I thought the majority of the OEMs were covered from patent lawsuits from Microsoft (HTC was also supposedly covered from Apple’s lawsuits).

  • frankie

    acting independently??? yeah right!

  • Rocksh1t

    Easy: Just stopped buying Apple, Microsoft, Sony & etc products & let these companies die from bankruptcy.

    • Aniruddh

      They’ll still be earning from patents :P

    • Qliphah

      Yes, then they’ll just sue for unfair business practices and have google dissolved.

    • Nitinart Nunthong

      though I do not like Apple , I still have to use Windows on my laptop (I know there are Linux distro but my office also uses Windows). For Sony , I am a Sony fan too. I love their walkman and PlayStation. So just cant stop buying their products. :)

    • infopekin

      well the same companies you are mentioned realized that one day customers may do that so they are securing the patents as the only way of making money, since will be not important who come up with idea but who first get patent in country that is getting smaller and smaller each year… when companies are getting so poor or greedy that cant effort any more to be innovative and provide innovative solutions the only focus is on how to secure the income, patents are the way to go in US as the easy way of securing the future income, I bet that Apple and Apple like companies are paying lots of money to find out way to patent everything and so do do not loose their image they setting up twisted consortia to do the job for them… so they investing the money from selling overpriced goods and buying companies that have any sort of patents in the field that can be monetized in the future…and sure its easy to call everyone dickhead saying that Apple is not suing anyone but it is hard to deny that eventually Apple will get money from that source – once the Rockstar win the case or cut the deal…. Not mentioned that Apple new that one day they will not be able to compete as there will be to many to fight with so they choosing options when together with other can attack and secure they financial position by securing ideas (someone else) not their own products…

      But this is not typical only to Apple – American companies are always searching for ways of making money without making anything, patent scam is ideal way to get money without making anything. That’s why patents are so hot topic in US and also killing progress, just way until someone will patent the wheel, water and air and then you will find your self paying money to them just for being alive…

  • Steffen L

    Disgusting. How about competing instead? The patents system needs a massive overhaul.

  • AmicusBrief

    If you look at the list of plaintiffs vs defendants it appears the contest is really between marketplace dinosaurs vs innovators.

    • APai


  • Cao Meo

    Sony must withdraw from this shameless patent troll, or it must be excluded from OHA.

    Sony, you can’t bite the hand that feeds you.

    • Mozaik

      Have you read article it’s not sony you idiot it’s rockstar.

  • Mayoo

    Everyone, stop breathing right now. Someone else did it before you and you could get sued anytime …

    This is ridiculous. How can technology advance when *ssholes like them are constantly suing everything just because they are jealous of someone’s else success.


    FWIW: Google was offered or once part of the consortium (which later became Rockstar), but Google wanted all for themselves and made an initial bid of $900M, challenging Rockstar. They wouldn’t be in this predicament if they only opted to go with the rest, but nooo… turns out Google lost the bid and bought Motorola instead (probably for the hopes of getting more patents for counterattack). Bad call for Google… but hey, let’s see what they have under their sleeves.

    • Mozaik

      Here is good logical explanation , but not going to help , they are blind fanboys.

  • Boonlumsion Piyapon

    Wonder that Google and most big Android OEMs-owned company will sues Apple and Microsoft back.

  • APai

    fuck microsoft and apple – both of them deserve to die in the hole they’ll end up in. microsoft is going down. screw them

  • John Locke

    All these OEMs that have agreements with either MS or Apple or both have beened stabbed in the back.

  • name

    If Google buys RIM, wouldn’t this shield them (and its OEMs) from lawsuit?

    • adam evans

      I’d like that to happen, don’t think they would want the whole company, just patents and the brand

  • Seth Forbus


  • Qliphah

    “Rockstar was widely expected to attempt to monetize the 6,000 patents it bought from Nortel.”

    I’m afraid that’s not the correct use of the word monetize, this is extortion. To take ideas and patents for the soul purpose of preventing others from truly monetizing on them. This “Rockstar” group sounds like the biggest patent troll to ever be created.

    And can somebody explain how they can even file suit since “Rockstar doesn’t have any operations of its own, Google, and other companies in its sights, can’t retaliate with a countersuit, like Samsung did with Apple.” I was under the impression to claim a patent violation a company actually had to have products and projects that use said patents.

  • Stonenghe

    So the biggest 3 loser come together: Apple, Microsoft und BlackBerry:-) Honestly I don’t know what is apple’s problem with Android. Apple is still making money like hell with overpriced devices. But then apple can not expect to play any greater roll in regards of market share. Both is simply not possible, and has nothing to do with Android. An iphone5c is just a joke, and will not help to sell in boom regions like india or china. A 6 year old kid could have estimate this before.

    • BB BB

      Not blackberry. Sony

  • hungry4donuts

    when google couldn’t buy nortel they bought motorola instead i’m curious what patents they have maybe predates nortel patents..

  • adam evans

    Both of them are feeling the pressure of android with %80 share and developed markets they are familiar with are starting to saturate. Its clearly an offensive move to slow Google’s momentum !

  • Roberto Tomás

    Hard to imagine the earliest patents having any effect now. Patents expire after 12 years in the USA, unless they are extended in an application that surely google would have challenged. so it is an expired patent.

  • Gator352

    What Apple and Micrshaft…..Google kicking your ass??? Bitter??? You mad bro??

  • Ruben

    If Apple still wants to sell overpriced outdated technology is okay but they shouldn’t stop others from developing innovating high end products… This is so sad. Even for Apple this is…


  • Ruben

    These lawsuits should be in the international court of The Hague, The Netherlands. Not somewhere in the Undemocratic States of America!

  • Tran Nguyen

    Now another stupid company and lawyers want to bite some cakes for holiday.

  • BB BB

    When iPhones sales begin to slow down, apple always seems to pull out the brief case and head to the courts. Instead they should fix iOS7 BSOD

  • EliasAlucard

    Had Google used the GNU GPL v3 license instead of Apache, this patent trolling wouldn’t be a problem.