Google Bids $900 Million To Stave Off Patent Lawsuits

Google’s Kent Walker explains why the company’s bidding $900 million to secure Nortel’s portfolio of intellectual property:

So after a lot of thought, we’ve decided to bid for Nortel’s patent portfolio in the company’s bankruptcy auction. Today, Nortel selected our bid as the “stalking-horse bid,” which is the starting point against which others will bid prior to the auction. If successful, we hope this portfolio will not only create a disincentive for others to sue Google, but also help us, our partners and the open source community—which is integrally involved in projects like Android and Chrome—continue to innovate. In the absence of meaningful reform, we believe it’s the best long-term solution for Google, our users and our partners.

Call it a sign of the nutty times we live in. The point of patents is to encourage innovation by creating financial incentives to innovate, but mismanaged patent law is becoming a huge impediment to innovation in the software space. And there are no real heroes here. As NB pointed out to me today, Google’s not above filing its own ridiculous patent claims:

Google’s Doodles have certainly come a long way from their humble beginnings, but the company has now pulled off what may be its most jaw-dropping feat yet — it’s just been awarded a patent for them. Described as “systems and methods for enticing users to access a web site,” the patent credits Google co-founder Sergey Brin as the sole inventor, and it comes more than ten years after Google first filed the application.

The “systems and methods” in question are that they use cute different versions of their icon on certain days to project an imagine as a fun-loving company. And then, I guess, they threaten to sue you if you do the same. Fun!