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Amazon is serious about the patents arms race, looking for an IP guru

Analysts believe that Amazon is likely doing this to be proactive in IP
August 9, 2012
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These days, success in the mobile industry can be a mix of innovation and litigation.

We have seen how Microsoft is earning almost a billion per quarter in Android licenses alone. The ongoing Apple vs. Samsung patent litigation also stems from Android, with Sammy being seen as a proxy for Apple in its “thermonuclear war” against Android.

Given these trends, companies that are developing mobile devices are turning not only to innovation, but also patents. Amazon, for one, wants to beef up its intellectual property portfolio in the mobile industry, and is currently looking for executives and experts in this field.

Amazon launched its Kindle Fire in 2011 to much fanfare, and the tablet gained ground in the market even as Amazon sold it at a loss. The e-commerce company is rumored to be developing a smartphone likewise powered by Android. But it’s not enough to just develop, build and market a device. You have to have intellectual property rights over the design and technologies, a fact that companies have learned the hard — and expensive — way.

An Amazon listing for an executive search says the company is looking for an “acquisition and investment leader” who will help the company evaluate strategic IP opportunities. “To support and protect our expansion we are seeking an executive to work with our business teams to identify and procure intellectual property,” says the listing.

Amazon getting serious with mobile

The job will involve growing Amazon’s intellectual property portfolio, which could include outright purchase of patent portfolios, acquisition of companies with existing portfolios, or licensing deals. Analysts consider this to be a sign that Amazon is serious in being a long-term player in the mobile business.

Amazon has not commented on the matter, although analysts believe that Amazon is likely doing this move to be proactive in IP, so that they have legal ammunition when subject to potential lawsuits. The company does own a host of patents, although these are mostly in e-commerce. The company was part of the consortium that acquired the patents of Nortel Networks, which includes Microsoft and Apple.

The race to find patent experts may also stem from the current sale of Eastman Kodak’s patent portfolio, which other big companies, like Microsoft and Google are also gunning for. To date, Amazon has already hired three experts in the field, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Amazon’s drive for an enhanced patent portfolio stems from its tablet business, says Paul Ryan, CEO of  Acacia Research Corp, a company that has licensed patents to Amazon. “Initially they were a pretty straightforward online retailer, but they are now getting into more sophisticated areas and need more IP for that,” he told Reuters.

It seems developers and designers are not the only people with lucrative careers in technology with the boom in mobile devices. Any patent lawyers out there? Amazon may be looking for you.