Apple led company Rockstar is a group of tech companies seeking to protect a portfolio of patents that it jointly purchased last year from defunct Canadian tech giant Nortel. On Tuesday, Google announced that it is taking Rockstar to court in an attempt to stop litigation which it says has "placed a cloud on Google’s Android platform," in particular, on Google's Nexus range of devices.
Google is trying to save many companies that use the open source Android OS, such as Asus, HTC, Huawei, Pantech, Samsung, LG and ZTE, from having to waste precious financial resources and time, defending themselves in courtrooms. The companies that make up Rockstar include Android rivals such as Apple, BlackBerry and Microsoft. In 2012, Rockstar spent $4.5 billion ($2.5 billion came from Apple) to buy a number of patents owned by Nortel.
Rockstar has no operations and employs Canadian engineers whose sole job is to scour the operations of other companies, looking for something that might infringe on its IP portfolio. Google's filing claims that the patent troll has focused on 100 companies and Rockstar's CEO claims that Facebook, LinkedIn and almost every major tech company is infringing on the patents that it has purchased from Nortel.
Google does not relish the idea of having to spend time and money defending itself and its customers. It is asking the court to rule that the " Nexus 5, Nexus 7, or Nexus 10 devices sold by Google, directly or indirectly " do not infringe on the seven patents owned by Rockstar and MobileStar. The latter is a shell company that apparently was created to help Rockstar win in court.
The patents owned by Rockstar deal with basic smartphone functions such as "mobile hotspot functionality," and "Messaging and Notification." Still, Rockstar has not been successful trying to license the patents it purchased and now the consortium faces the prospects of losing the $4.5 billion investment made by its members.
Early this year, a court ruled that Cisco could not sue to prevent its router customers from litigation. Google could find the courts unwilling to allow it to protect its customers from the patent troll.
Rockstar is getting desperate. Apple isn't happy with having to write off a multi-billion dollar investment. It is this desperation that has Google concerned about the depths that its rivals will go to in order to see some sort of return on the purchase of the Nortel patents.