Google has long stated that they are opposed to software patents. Many companies make a habit of purchasing patents for the sole purpose of suing other companies who may have similar technology. Alternatively, companies will create broad patents that cover something generic like double-clicking a link, and will then sue other companies who “use” that technology. Google argues that this stifles innovation; it’s very expensive to defend yourself from a patent case.
Google announced on their blog that they are attempting to purchase Nortel’s patent portfolio. Currently they are the “stalking horse bid,” meaning they get to set the first bid to acquire the patents from the bankrupt company. According to the CBC, Google’s initial bid is $900M and covers the purchase of roughly 6,000 patents.
The reason for trying to acquire the patents seems to mostly revolve around protecting the company from potential frivolous lawsuits as well as to help the open source community continue to innovate and grow projects such as Android and Chrome. According to Nortel, their patent portfolio covers, “nearly every aspect of telecommunications and additional markets as well, including Internet search and social networking.”
Until patent reform becomes a reality, companies will continue to purchase patents to use in both an offensive and defensive manner.