Google was recently involved in a bidding war with Apple, Microsoft, and others over more than 6,000 patent filings from Nortel. It was a war that the search giant lost when a group comprised of Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion, Ericsson, Sony, and EMC joined together to bid $4.5 billion in cash. Google oddly chose to bid using numbers based upon mathematical formulas and constants, with their final bid based upon pi – $3.14159 billion.
A post at the Official Google Blog, Patents and innovation, by Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker in early April discussed patent reform and the need for a company to defend themselves by having a formidable patent portfolio. Google’s decision to pursue the Nortel patents was based in part upon creating a “disincentive for others to sue Google.”
While Google might not have been successful in the auction for Nortel’s intellectual property, they haven’t been standing pat. On July 11th and 12th, Google recorded the assignment of 1,030 granted patents from IBM covering a range of topics, from the fabrication and architecture of memory and microprocessing chips, to other areas of computer architecture including servers and routers as well. A number of the patents also cover relational databases, object oriented programming, and a wide array of business processes.
Here are some of the patents acquired from IBM that are related to search and search engines:
- System And Method Of Using Data Mining Prediction Methodology
- System And Method Of Automatic Discovery Of Terms In A Document That Are Relevant To A Given Target Topic
- System And Method For Web-Based Querying
- System And Method For Imbedding Hyperlinked Language Grammar Notation In A “Literate” Programming Environment
- Method And Apparatus For Maintaining State Information For Web Pages Using A Directory Server
- System And Method For Maintaining Up-To-Date Link Information In The Metadata Repository Of A Search Engine
- System, Method And Service For Ranking Search Results Using A Modular Scoring System
- Updating Of Embedded Links In World Wide Web Source Pages To Have The New Urls Of Their Linked Target Web Pages After Such Target Web Pages Have Been Moved
- Method And System For Classifying Semi-Structured Documents
- Majority Schema In Semi-Structured Data
- System And Method For Query Processing And Optimization For Xml Repositories
- Identifying Duplicate Documents From Search Results Without Comparing Document Content
- System And Method Of Ranking And Retrieving Documents Based On Authority Scores Of Schemas And Documents
- System And Method For Ranking Nodes In A Network
A TechCrunch interview with General Counsel Kent Walker published on Monday discusses the loss of the Nortel bidding:
â€œWe buy companies all the time â€” for both people and interesting technologies. This would have been north of $4 billion for none of those things. We were bidding on the right to stop people from innovating,â€ Walker says.
â€œYou have to have the discipline not to overbid,â€ Walker continues. â€œAre there other opportunities out there? Of course,â€ he says, noting that Google is looking at all of them, but refusing to name specific opportunities. Rumors have pegged InterDigital as the next Google/Apple patent fight.
I don’t know any of the financial details or the circumstances around Google’s assignment of IBM’s interest in the newly acquired patents, but it’s not a bad start towards building a deeper patent portfolio. While I linked to patents above that focus upon search, there’s a nice range and depth of intellectual property involved in this acquisition that has me wondering if Google has an interest in pursuing some new interests and innovations.
Added 2011-7-29 at 9:32am (EDT), it looks like Google sent out an email sometime after my post to some main stream media sources about Google’s reasons for making these purchases. I don’t know if that was planned or in response to this post. Thanks to The Wall Street Journal, which included a nice mention of SEO by the Sea while reporting upon the acquisitions here: Google Buys IBM Patents.
Thanks also to the many members of Hacker News for their thoughtful discussion as well. There seems to be some interest there in knowing more about the actual patents involved to see if they might be useful against some of the pending patent infringement suits against Google. I’m going to try to make a list (with links) available within the next few days, though bear with me – the USPTO website/databases are set up in a way that makes that time consuming. With that many patents, I’ve only looked at the titles of most of them, but there’s a possibility that some of them might be useful.
Added 2011-7-29 at 5:33pm (EDT), All of Google’s new patents from IBM are now available to look through.