Google Eyes Up BlackBerry And BLU’s Patent Agreement
Last year, BlackBerry accused American smartphone manufacturer, BLU (Bold Like Us) of infringing on fifteen patents. Earlier in the month, BlackBerry and BLU announced they had reached an agreement. The original patent infringement claim set down fifteen patents including issues such as chipsets, power management, signal transmission and other issues. A year later, the two companies seemingly have made amends, and BlackBerry explained that it would be earning revenue from the patent agreement. So far so good, and this ties in with BlackBerry wanting to licence software to device builders, but there’s a potential issue as reported by Seeking Alpha: Google is investigating into these patents. According to the United States patent office, Google has a “reasonable likelihood” of winning an invalidation of four patents. If this happens, it means BLU will likely be able to wriggle out of paying future royalties and could put a major stymie in BlackBerry’s ambitions of licensing software to other vendors, or at least of making money from the deals.
BlackBerry is believed to own almost 45,000 patents with an estimated value between $2 billion to $3 billion. Google has acted to protect Android from patent trolls (such as Apple), for example it bought Motorola in August 2011 for the patent portfolio. Earlier this year, Google formed a group including a number of top Android device manufacturers to share patents encompassing “Android and Google Applications.” This group is reckoned to be available for any company to join: has BlackBerry joined the group? Could Google be preparing to “encourage” BlackBerry, and perhaps BLU, to join? This patent group, called “PAX,” use the patents for defence rather than tackling other companies.
Patents, and patent protection, is a massive business. The concept of preventing the competition from using a technology you or your employees came up with is sound, or of licensing the technology to other companies, allows innovation to reward the innovators. Problems arise when a company is accused of infringing a particular patent, that is when a company uses a patent without permission. Google’s PAX group is designed to protect all manufacturers, and BlackBerry could be going against the grain here. Or it could be quite the deal if BlackBerry join PAX.