As noted in the media today, the patent wars over Google’s Android Smartphone operating system have taken a new twist. A US International Trade Commission judge held that Motorola Mobility infringed only one of seven patents that Microsoft alleged had been violated.
Google has become the target of patent cases as android has become the system of choice for over half the smartphone market in the US. Microsoft was pleased that the judge had found that Motorola had violated one of its patents, commenting that “respecting other’s intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward” – David Horwath, Microsoft Deputy General Counsel.
Motorola countered that Microsoft continued to infringe its own substantial patent portfolio launching litigation in a number of jurisdictions.
We are clearly in the middle of a real increase in patent-based litigation and negotiations in the IT space. That means that patent protection more than ever before is making a big impact on the ability for IT companies to commercialise their ideas and prevent others from doing so.
So the fundamental message for IT companies is that intellectual property protection really matters. According to their traditional use, patents will protect your products. But now IT companies can actually use patents to defend against patent infringement since cross licences are a popular measure in the IT space if infringement is likely.
Cross licences can also provide an advantage for smaller IT companies, placing them in a stronger position in the event of acquisition by a larger player. If there are patents on the negotiating table, then the company being acquired has greater bargaining power.