Another Angle to Google’s Motorola Acquisition

With Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility, the media has focused their sites on the patents gained, and how they may be used to fend off threats from Android’s competitors, such as Apple and Microsoft. Considering Motorola was a pioneer in the cell phone industry, they must have some good patents in their portfolio. While there is no mistaking that patents are a large reason for the acquisition, I feel the media may be overlooking one aspect.

For those just tuning in, Google’s Android operating system is starting to look like a legal minefield. Android handset manufacturers are being sued by both Apple and Microsoft for patent infringement, and some have even inked licensing deals. For example Acer, Amazon, HTC and ViewSonic have all signed patent deals with Microsoft.

With Motorola Mobility’s existing patent portfolio, it only seems logical that Google’s reason for the acquisition was to help protect Android licensees from further patent lawsuits. Just this week HTC fired back at Apple with a lawsuit using patents they recently acquired from Google. Even if Google decides to stay out of the lawsuits directly, it does appear that they plan to act via proxy.

With that being said, you may be wondering what angle of this story I feel the media is overlooking. A month ago, while speaking at a conference, Motorola’s CEO Sanjay Jha had this to say about the Android patent scene:

I would bring up IP as a very important for differentiation (among Android vendors). We have a very large IP portfolio, and I think in the long term, as things settle down, you will see a meaningful difference in positions of many different Android players. Both, in terms of avoidance of royalties, as well as potentially being able to collect royalties. And that will make a big difference to people who have very strong IP positions.

Judging from the quote, it appears that Motorola was looking to join Microsoft in collecting royalties from other Android handset manufacturers. It’s bad enough that multiple Android manufactures are already paying licensing fees to Microsoft. What manufacturer would be willing to license Android if they also had to start paying licensing fees to Motorola Mobility, a fellow Android licensee? Why not just license Windows Phone 7 outright, knowing that Microsoft will provide protection from OS-related patent lawsuits?

I believe Google thought this as well, and realized that having Android licensees suing each other would only give more reason to avoid Android altogether. Seeing as Motorola Mobility already had a huge patent portfolio, bet the house on Android, and established their intention to collect royalties from other Android licensees, it makes sense why Google acquired them. With Motorola Mobility under Google’s umbrella, they are better prepared to help other Android licensees fight back on patent infringement lawsuits. At the same time, they can now assure that Android licensees will also not be on the bad end of Motorola Mobility’s patents.