Google Patent Acquisition From IBM: Google Acquires over 1,000 Patents from IBM in August

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In what feels like a case of deja vu, Google has recorded the acquisition of at least 1,022 patents from International Business Machines in August of this year (there’s a 1,023rd patent listed in the USTPO assignment database as well, but the patent number appears to be wrong). The USPTO recording date for the transaction is September 13, 2011, and the execution date on the document is August 17th, 2011. I wrote about a previous acquisition of patents by Google from IBM earlier this year in the post, Google Acquires Over 1,000 IBM Patents in July

As I noted in the earlier post, Google had lost a bidding match earlier this year for more than 6,000 patent filings from Nortel to a collective formed of Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion, Ericsson, Sony, and EMC. That doesn’t seem to have stopped them from dipping from the same well a second time to acquire more intellectual property from IBM. Google has also recently acquired a very large number of patents from the purchase of Motorola Mobility.

Last week, Google sold nine patents to HTC to help them pursue a patent infringement case against Apple. Some of the patents that were transferred to HTC were acquired by Google last year when Google purchased them from Myriad Group, which I wrote about in December.

Like the patents from the previous Google-IBM patent transaction, the range of inventions is pretty broad, including desktop and server hardware, computer security, database processes, circuit design, parallel database systems and architecture, user authentication, creditcard/smartcard testing, and much more. The vast majority of patents appear to have been originally assigned to IBM, but there were a few that started out at Cognos, Inc., which IBM acquired in 2007, and which was merged into IBM’s business intelligence offerings.

I went through the newly acquired patents and picked out some that looked interesting based upon titles alone (there were too many to dig through each of them in-depth), and found some involving Java, some related to phones, and more than a couple involving search and the Web.

One of the patents listed below, System And Method For Disambiguating Entities In A Web Page Search, was co-invented by Ramanathan Guha, who joined Google in 2005 after three years at IBM. While at Google, he’s worked upon Google Custom Search and was behind Google’s version of trust rank which may play a role in Google’s development of an author rank in places like Google Plus, and possibly in web search results as well.

Here are some of the acquired patents that I thought looked interesting (actually there were a lot that looked interesting):

Java and Scripting Based Patents

Phone and Wireless Based Patents

Web and Search Related Patents

There is no information about the terms in the agreement between Google and IBM for the assignment of these patents on the USTPO website. IBM still has an incredibly large amount of patents assigned to them at the USPTO, and in the past few months, Google has grown a much more robust patent portfolio than they had before.

In February, I wrote a post linking to the 809 granted patents listed as assigned to Google at the USPTO assignment database. Now they may have more than 20,000 granted patents counting the ones acquired in transactions involving Motorola and IBM. Will they keep on this path of patent acquisition, and if they do, what will they do with all the patents?

Added: September 15, 2011, – I noted above that one of the patent numbers in the list of assigned patents was probably wrong. I searched for the patent – US 0595697 – and found that the number matches up with a patent from 1897 covering a pair of opera glasses. So, it definitely is wrong. Hopefully, the assignment filing will be corrected soon so that we can see the correct patent assigned.

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45 thoughts on “Google Patent Acquisition From IBM: Google Acquires over 1,000 Patents from IBM in August”

  1. “Will they keep on this path of patent acquistion, and if they do, what will they do with all the patents?”

    Control the world muahahahaha. Just kidding. It’s obvious that the supremacy of the big G is based on investigation and, what better way than buying it?

  2. Wow Bill – Between this and the statistical search rankings post – i’m going to get nothing done today!

    There are too many interesting patent titles to work out which one to look through first – but these look like good starting places:

    Term-Statistics Modification For Category-Based Search
    Session-History-Based Recency-Biased Natural Language Document Search
    Method And System For Document Collection Final Search Result By Arithmetical Operations Between Search Results Sorted By Multiple Ranking Metrics

    Thanks again for your dedication!

  3. Well, this is really great accomplishment in terms of competitiveness between other top ranking online companies.

    The next step ~ control over the online world 🙂

  4. How can Google even keep track of all of their patents? More specifically, how can they keep track of who is infringing on each one? Seems like they would have to catch infringement just to cover costs on their patent lawyers, analysts, and so forth.

  5. Two things;
    You mention Google selling patents to help another company pursue action against a competitor. What a way to blunt your competitors! If a different group came together to pursue patent litigation against the leader every couple of years, nothing will get done. It almost has the feel of a “rental” portfolio of patents that would be in play.

    Oh, #2? Will they keep on this path of patent acquistion, and if they do, what will they do with all the patents? Keep Bill up all night 😉

  6. I remember seeing a movie producer give a tour of his house once on television. In one room, there were shelves and shelves of unproduced screenplays that he had bought over the years. I wondered why they were never made. Later, in college, I took a screenwriting course which was taught by a professional screenwriter who had actually once sold a script to this very producer. Unfortunately, her script was just one of the many on the shelves, destined for collecting dust. She explained that one of the main reasons most producers buy a screenplay is so that other producers can’t.

    Although I’m sure some of these patents will be implemented, I find it amusing that Google and the other mega-companies aren’t that different from the movie producers. It really doesn’t matter if the patents are used or not. As long as Google has the patents on their shelves, the other companies don’t.

  7. Wow, I’m really curious to see how the patent wars play out. Do you think Google will be more able to defend Android/Motorola more effectively with these particular patents?

    I’m sure Google’s IP lawyers are mulling the possibility of a counter-attack or two.

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  12. What’s the use of buying all these patents, companies end up selling anyway eventually? I wonder.

  13. Not to beat a dead horse but if they own approximately 900,000 servers a little bit over 30 acres in the small city of The Dalles, Oregon aka “Googleville” An entire city block of Manhattan, fiber optic network, a philanthropic section, venture capital investment section I can go on and on since we just wrote about it. We actually did a few days of research and the bottom line is what’s a couple thousand patents among friends? 😉 lol I don’t know about controlling the world but they want to make sure they have every section of search covered.

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  19. Hi David,

    We have heard that Google has acquired a number of companies in the past year, though we haven’t always been given information about those acquisitions.

    Google’s patent portfolio is starting to get to an interesting point, where they have enough patents that could potentially persuade some companies not to initiate patent infringement cases against them or risk a counterclaim based upon another patent that might now be owned by Google.

    It might make sense though for Google to continue to pursue some patents, if available, that cover some important parts of how Google is doing business.

  20. Hi Tom,

    I hope that you were able to catch up with the things that you needed to get done.

    There were a lot of more mundane titles in the collection, but I agree that those sounded really interesting.

    One of the things that I have learned looking at patents for a number of years is that sometimes the title of a patent isn’t the greatest indication of what it actually contains and can be a little misleading. It’s a lot of patents to go through though.

  21. Hi Brent

    There are some (costly) patent management softwares out there that can be helpful when it comes to finding and tracking patents and managing your portfolio.

    I don’t think that it’s gotten to the point where you need to pursue infringement cases in order to cover the costs of managing your patents if you actually produce or manufacture something.

  22. Hi Alan,

    Another thing that I’ve understand sometimes happens is that companies that participate in a certain industry might sign agreements to pool some of their patents, or license each other in different aspects of what they are doing when they have patents that cover certain activities so that they can make that industry stronger.

    Keep Bill up all night

    I thought I was done working for the evening when I ran across this acquisition. A few hours later…

  23. Hi Corey,

    Interesting story about the screen plays. I wasn’t aware that was going on in that industry.

    I have heard of other types of manufacturers buying patents that might affect their industries, and purposefully not doing anything with them, and watched a movie called Gas Holes about that possibly happening in the auto industry, to keep cars that get at least 100 miles/gallon off the road.

  24. Hi Joe,

    I’m not sure if any of the patents that Google acquired would be directly on point when it comes to defending an infringement suit, but having a larger patent portfolio might mean that Google possibly could fire back with their own infringement case in response to the initiation of such a case. That possibility might limit some of the infringement cases that might be brought against them.

  25. Hi Mark,

    Most of the patents that Google owned prior to starting to acquire patents from others were ones that they had either developed themselves, acquired along with the companies that were granted them, or a few that belonged to other companies that were doing search at one point in time, like infoseek.

    But they didn’t have the vast and deep patent portfolios of companies like Apple and Microsoft and Oracle and IBM which have been filing patents for decades.

    Having a lot of patents might deter people from filing infringement cases against you because you might own a patent that covers something that they are doing that they don’t have a patent for.

  26. Hi Gabriella,

    It makes sense for Google to have made each of those purchases, and I think considering the amount of cash Google supposedly has on the books, I think they’ve actually been doing a good job of practicing some restraint in their spending.

  27. Hi Dimitar,

    It’s something to think about how much technology is part of our lives these days, from mobile phones to email to using the Web for shopping, to get news, to find information, and more.

    Patents are small slices of the intellectual property and innovations that potentially describe the technology that we do use every day, so yes, this is like a battle for our future.

  28. It’s amazing how many of these patents companies hold. I’m sure there is a patent for just about anything we can think of.

    Does it limit innovation? Hard to say. Developments like this make for some interesting times ahead in the IT world don’t you think?

  29. IBM seems to be handing over patents left and right. What is the reason behind this? They are no longer interested with these technologies and might as well sell the patent and make money or what? Another thing, does the USPTO limit the number of patents approved to you per year or the total number of active patents you can hold as a whole?

  30. It seems that Google’s dominance is going to increase even more. I hate to say this, but please Microsoft, do something about this.

  31. Hi Barry,

    It’s surpring how few some other sites have, like Twitter or Facebook have in comparison.

    It is a fact that more companies are springing up that are buying patents solely for the purpose of suing others, and patent infringement cases between competitors are something to be wary of. I’m surprised that Google didn’t start acquiring more patents earlier. Definitely interesting times ahead.

  32. Hi Christina,

    I’m not sure of the reason behind IBM selling patents at the rate that they are, but they aren’t really talking about the transactions.

    I did notice that IBM sold between 50-100 patents to Yahoo in 2006, and I hadn’t really seen anyone write about that transaction or the reasons behind it. A number of those patents were mobile related, and it’s possible that Yahoo may have had an interest back then in getting more involved in mobile, but I’m not sure if we will ever know.

    The USPTO doesn’t impose any limits on the number of patents that anyone files or can hold, but it can be costly to file a patent and have it granted, and you want to file patents that have a chance of being granted.

  33. Hi Matthew,

    I’m all for strong competition between the search engines – I’m a believer that it’s the kind of thing that results in better search engines.

    Microsoft does have an army of lawyers, deep enough pockets to develop their own technology or make patent purchases of their own, and a very large number of people developing software and hardware. I hope that Microsoft does challenge Google, and helps raise the bar.

  34. Well, Google’s buying again. One that got my attention is the “Text In Anchor Tag Of Hyperlink Adjustable According To Context” patent from “Web and Search Related Patents”.

    Reading through that right now, it does sound revolutionary to me. If adopted, it could mean changes to the SEO world.

  35. Hi George,

    Interesting. That was one of the ones that I initially found pretty fascinating, though I think Google attempted to approach the problem described in that patent from a different stance. Instead of a website owner trying to find ways to present synonyms for a search engine to index, Google appears instead to be focusing upon using the information that they find on the Web on many documents, in query sesssions from searchers when they reformulate their queries, and in statistical language models they’ve made of web documents to try to understand synonyms better. I’ve written about that a few times, including this post:

    More Ways a Search Engine Might Identify Synonyms to Expand Queries With

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