In 2011, a group of companies came together to purchase the patent portfolio of the failed Nortel. The group, called Rockstar Consortium, was formed by some major players, including Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Sony. Despite being asked, Google declined the offer, instead deciding to bid solo, losing to Rockstar.
It was only a matter of time before those patents were used to generate revenue for the group, and that time is now. The first target is Google, who would have obviously been better served to not turn down the offer to join the group. The seven patents in question, "Associative Search Engine," describe the process of associating advertising with search terms for a search engine. For those keeping track, that is Google's entire business model.
The fact that Google was obviously aware of the patents, seeing as they were bidding on them, will not work in Google's favor. In the complaint, the company said,
Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe the patents-in-suit.
Google isn't the only one in the cross-hairs. Samsung and HTC are also under suit from Rockstar for a collection of seven different patents that describe an operating system designed "to support Gallery, Email, Maps and Browser functionality." While this system described covers all modern mobile operating systems, most of the designers of said systems are owners in the patent, making it a non-issue. In addition to the seven, Samsung is also being sued for an eighth, entitled "Internet Protocol Filter." This covers Samsung's Hotspot feature, which is also present on most modern devices.
While many of these patents will probably not stand up to the law, it is about to be an interesting case against Google. While the other companies being sued can claim ignorance of the patents and possibly even have them canceled, Google knew about and understood the value of said patents, evidenced by their bids. Their battle against Rockstar will be more involved, and could even result in massive royalty payments to continue their only real business model.