Rockstar vs. Google: Biggest patent troll yet?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: November 2, 2013

People involved in this industry are no strangers to the fact that the smartphone industry is at its prime. The industry itself has grown tremendously since 2007, so it comes as no surprise that ever since the smartphone became popular, the amount of lawsuits and counter-suits has increased significantly each year. Perhaps the most popular series of lawsuits to surface comes from Apple Inc., creators of the iPhone, and Samsung Electronics Co., creators of the famous Galaxy S and Galaxy Note Android phones, among others. Between the two companies, they made half of smartphones sold worldwide as of July of 2012, so the tension and amount of publicity surrounding the lawsuits weren't exactly hard to find across the Internet.

But the entirety of the Apple vs. Samsung series of lawsuits seems somewhat miniscule compared to this new patent war to come about: Rockstar Consortium (or simply "Rockstar") vs. Google.

Perhaps you've never heard of Rockstar Consortium. If not, you're not alone, and you may be wondering exactly what their beef is with Google. In all likelihood, you have heard of Rockstar, just not in the form of Rockstar. To be exact, there are five companies that back Rockstar: Sony, Apple, Microsoft, RIM and Ericsson. And when we say the patent war of Rockstar vs. Google, that's simplifying a much, much messier beginning to what looks like the most colossal patent war we've seen yet. Rockstar isn't only filing lawsuits on Google, but also at seven more companies, all of which are Android manufacturers: HTC, ZTE, Samsung, Huawei, LG, Pantech and Asustek. 

You might be wondering exactly what patents Rockstar wants to file lawsuits against these companies for, as well as the why and how. 

As it turns out, back in 2011 Nortel, a Canadian-based telecom decided to auction off its more than 6,000 patents that covered 4G technologies and more following its bankruptcy in 2009. Google bid for these patents, but lost to "Rockstar Bidco." who bid $4.5 billion for the patents. Rockstar Bidco was, of course, Rockstar Consortium, a small independent company that's in cahoots with all five larger companies previously mentioned. The key word here being that Rockstar is independent; a small company that serves as a shell to these bigger corporations. The trick is that Rockstar doesn't have any operating businesses, which means that they can essentially avoid patent countersuits fired back at them.

I could understand if one individual company were to win these patents and file lawsuits, but by combining forces it does seem a little overbearing and a little like a combined effort for a massive blow against Android - like it was planned. 

Rockstar is filing lawsuits against 6 patents that they believe Google and co. is infringing upon; patents that all share the title "associative search engine", and have descriptions such as "an advertisement machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network."

So now we get to the why aspect of things. Why would these five companies want to file lawsuits against Google? There really is no question, the answer is obvious. Even if this is your first time reading anything smartphone-related, it's easy to tell why five companies, especially with names like "Apple" and "Microsoft" included, would combine efforts and want to file lawsuits against a company like Google. If you don't know the answer, it's simple: Because they can. That's all.

Patent wars in general irk me to begin with. It seems like wasted time and money. Instead of creating the innovations we seek and trying to benefit the consumer, the time is being spent having ego wars with each other. I see it the same as I do around election time. I absolutely hate the commercials that tell me nothing about what the candidate wants to do to better the community; instead, they spend the entire commercial telling you about what the other opponent is doing wrong. This is what it looks like to me. It makes everything look negative, and negative isn't what I'm looking for. Don't tell me what other people are doing wrong, just tell me about what you're doing that's right. Convince me to like your product through positive means. 

These patent wars just seem so petty, and generally not a good way to be spending time in this industry. If I wanted to be rooting for a team I'd turn on ESPN and watch football or something.

Either way, I have a feeling this is just the beginning of another very long, drawn-out patent war.

Images via Bart's Blackboard, Mashable