Google vs. Intellectual Ventures: Showdown in Patent Court


In yet another chapter of the ongoing Patent Wars, Intellectual Ventures is scheduled for a show-down with Google, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola Mobility. This will be the first trial for patent-buying firm Intellectual Ventures since it was founded more than a decade ago in 2000.

Intellectual Ventures first sued Motorola Mobility in 2011 when it claimed that the company infringed on patents covering a variety of smartphone-related technologies, including Google Play. The trial covers three different such patents. Jury selection was set to begin on Tuesday at a federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, assuming there were no further settlements.

The lawsuit exists within the tumultuous climate of what’s frequently referred to as the “Patent Wars.” In Congress, the issue of patent infringement (particularly in regards to software and other tech patents) is a hot button issue, and the debate over patent reform continues. In the case between Intellectual Ventures and Google, Google represents one side of the argument, which suggests doing-away with software patents and streamlining the process of fighting lawsuits, and claims that “patent trolls,” otherwise known as “patent buying entities” or “patent aggregators,” are stifling innovation and exploiting the current patent system. Such “patent trolls” have even been the subject of a This American Life series, which actually features Intellectual Ventures. Meanwhile, Intellectual Ventures argues that Congress should not be so willing to slash patent owners’ rights.

Intellectual Ventures counters the arguments of tech companies like Google by contending that unlike similar patent-aggregators it only invests in high quality intellectual property, and doesn’t go around buying up frivolous patents; the company also stated that it’s doing inventors a service by helping them get paid for their innovations, as well as helping tech companies to protect and manage their patents, according to a Reuters report Tuesday.

Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the jury rules; a win by Motorola might support the idea that the U.S. Government issues too many dubious patents, and further, may be used as evidence in later patent infringement cases. If the jury rules in favor of Intellectual Ventures, it would legitimize the company by support its argument that it doesn’t buy frivolous patents, and therefore doesn’t qualify as a “patent troll.”

It seems, however, that even if the jury does file in favor of Intellectual Ventures, Google may still have the slight upper hand; it could argue, for instance, that a decision made by a jury of non-expert citizens isn’t legitimate. ”Just because you have a winning ticket doesn’t mean it’s not still a lottery,” said Shubha Ghosh a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School who supports patent reform said of the case, per Reuters.

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