Google grabs communication patents from Foxconn

Chinese manufacturer, Foxconn, has revealed that it has sold multiple communication patents to Google as the company wishes to strengthen its patent portfolio to protect its Android operating system from patent trolls.

Hon Hai Precision Industry Company also known as Foxconn, has been manufacturing electronics equipment ranging from connecting wires to smartphones for a number of technology companies. It gained global recognition for manufacturing Apple's iPhones in recent times. Foxconn currently holds 64,300 patents worldwide and has applied for 128,400 more patents. It was one of the Top 20 companies to hold patents in the US according to patent research firm, Envision IP.

A report from the Wall Street Journal has revealed that Foxconn has now sold some of its communication-related patents to US-based software giant, Google, for an undisclosed amount of money.

Google has been actively looking to strengthen its IP portfolio in wake of lawsuits filed by patent trolls against Android device makers. To expand its patent portfolio, Google acquired Motorola Mobility in 2011 but sold it to Lenovo in 2014, while retaining the ownership of the communication patents from the company.

Although Google declined to comment on the report, Foxconn has provided a statement saying that it would continue research and development of technologies and continue "transforming such investments into valuable intellectual property assets."

Source: Wall Street Journal | Image via Bloomberg

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15 Comments

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Patent trolls? Microsoft is a patent troll? Nokia is a patent troll? Apple is a patent troll? I thought patent trolls were companies that held patents but didn't use them for any purpose other than suing other companies that wanted to use them.

Microsoft, Nokia and Apple spent billions of dollars in R&D and saw their work shoplifted by Google and included in Android which they then deemed to give away "free" for no reason other than to undermine the legitimate work done by real companies.

I have to ask, which one is the troll?

Major_Plonquer said,
Patent trolls? Microsoft is a patent troll? Nokia is a patent troll? Apple is a patent troll? I thought patent trolls were companies that held patents but didn't use them for any purpose other than suing other companies that wanted to use them.

Microsoft, Nokia and Apple spent billions of dollars in R&D and saw their work shoplifted by Google and included in Android which they then deemed to give away "free" for no reason other than to undermine the legitimate work done by real companies.

I have to ask, which one is the troll?

Patenting blatantly obvious ideas that you stole yourself, like Apple has done, the daring to sue over said obvious patent is indeed trolling, all three are guilty of using vague patents to try and stop competition, that you could defend that is sad and pathetic. Also if Google "stole" patented ideas, why have none of them gone after Google directly? No they go after the OEMs because they KNOW the patents are worth less than the paper they are printed on and know that Google would not settle and force a trial risking the invalid patents to be invalidated, and they don't want that

Wouldn't have anything to do with the fact Google doesn't sell Android, it's simply giving it away?

If the patents were as worthless as you so claim, why would any of Android's OEMs enter into agreements with said patent holders? Surely some of the really big OEMs wouldn't roll over and comply, and instead challenge the legality of them in court? Samsung's clearly not above suing for its interests, as its cases with Apple has shown.

So, please tell us why nobody noteworthy has challenged these patent agreements, rather, they've all virtually signed up to them.

If Google uses the patents to sue others like what they did with Motorola, then they are trolls. If not, just another day and another company buying patents

Ideas Man said,
Wouldn't have anything to do with the fact Google doesn't sell Android, it's simply giving it away?

Didn't stop Oracle from suing Google did it now? If the said companies were serious about stopping infringing IP, they'd sue Google directly and have them remove supposedly offending parts from the OS. But that's not their objective - which is to damage the competition, either through product bans (Apple), or by taxation and forced production of WP (Microsoft).

Ideas Man said,

If the patents were as worthless as you so claim, why would any of Android's OEMs enter into agreements with said patent holders?

This has been argued ad nauseam. As any IP lawyer would tell you, it's almost always better to settle than risk a lengthy and costly trail where the outcome is unknown. The majority of patents are invalidated when tested in court, but you only need one or two to get a big payout. Microsoft and Apple have thousand of dubious patents, and that's enough to threaten any company into licensing. Whether or not the claims have any merit is immaterial, the risk alone is enough.

Ideas Man said,

Surely some of the really big OEMs wouldn't roll over and comply, and instead challenge the legality of them in court? Samsung's clearly not above suing for its interests, as its cases with Apple has shown.

Apple didn't want to settle; It wanted billions and product bans. Microsoft is trying to tax Android to the point that it makes Windows Phone appear competitive (monetarily) and to add clauses in those licensing deals that require OEM's to produce WP devices. Failing that, it also tries to ban products. Both strategies are designed to damage the competition and help their own products.

Ideas Man said,

So, please tell us why nobody noteworthy has challenged these patent agreements, rather, they've all virtually signed up to them.

If you want to see what Microsoft was really doing, take a look at the court documents in Barnes and Noble vs Microsoft. http://macnn.com/rd/204806==ht...t/pdf2/MSvB&Nanswer.pdf


Microsoft offered a license to silence the threat of a lawsuit, but it supposedly asked for an "exorbitant" per-device rate, even for the grayscale device. The primary motivation of artificially eliminating competition for Windows and Windows Phone 7 was clear when Microsoft revealed that it would charge much more for anything that was "more like a computer," raising the price to make the tablet-like Nook Color to the point where it would have been impossible to sell.

http://www.electronista.com/ar...microsoft.breaks.antitrust/


Suing Barnes & Noble further escalates a pattern of shakedowns that are known to be a proxy fight against Google, which it sees as rivaling not only Windows Phone but mobile ad revenue from Bing. Microsoft has already sued Motorola and threatened Asian manufacturers. It notably avoids suing any company that agrees to make Windows Phone 7 devices

http://www.electronista.com/ar...t.vs.nook.foxconn.inventec/

Major_Plonquer said,
Patent trolls? Microsoft is a patent troll? Nokia is a patent troll? Apple is a patent troll?

Technically, Nokia just became a non-practising entity. So yes, it has the potential to act as a troll on behalf of its puppet master Microsoft.

As for Microsoft and Apple themselves, I wouldn't necessarily call them patent trolls, more like patent abusers. Although, if we include proxies like Rockstar, then they are most certainly patent trolls.

Major_Plonquer said,

I thought patent trolls were companies that held patents but didn't use them for any purpose other than suing other companies that wanted to use them.

That's broadly accurate, but don't discount the fact that companies like Microsoft and Apple often fund patent trolls (Rockstar) to do their dirty work for them, in addition to their own patent attacks on the competition. If you conflate trolls with their respective owners, then yes MS and Apple are.

Major_Plonquer said,

Microsoft, Nokia and Apple spent billions of dollars in R&D and saw their work shoplifted by Google

Ignoring the fact that Microsoft and Apple built their companies on stealing/copying the work of others, you're talking about overly broad patents that are probably either invalid, or shouldn't have been granted in the first place, or has prior art, as in the case of Microsoft's FAT, which was just invalided in Germany, and has been invalided before in the US. So going by your logic, Microsoft shoplifted from Linus Torvalds.

Major_Plonquer said,

and included in Android which they then deemed to give away "free" for no reason other than to undermine the legitimate work done by real companies.

Do you really believe that Microsoft PR F.U.D? So you think GNU/Linux and FOSS software itself is given away to "undermine the legitimate work done by real companies"? Yeah right. Or could it be that Microsoft and Apple patent obvious and vague concepts in the truckload, hoping that a few hit a target somewhere?

Writing software these days is a minefield. Pretty much anything can fall into the scope of patents given enough of them. Does that mean the developers are thieves? Or that software patents stifle innovation and only benefit established monoliths like Microsoft, Apple, and Nokia, who have enormous portfolios? As well as non-practising entities of course.

techbeck said,
If Google uses the patents to sue others like what they did with Motorola, then they are trolls.

It's my understanding that was a countersuit in response to Microsoft's attack on Motorola and Android OEM's, and that Google was hoping to force Microsoft into a licensing agreement to protect Android OEM's. I certainly wouldn't call it trolling by any stretch of the imagination.

simplezz said,

This has been argued ad nauseam. As any IP lawyer would tell you, it's almost always better to settle than risk a lengthy and costly trail where the outcome is unknown. The majority of patents are invalidated when tested in court, but you only need one or two to get a big payout. Microsoft and Apple have thousand of dubious patents, and that's enough to threaten any company into licensing. Whether or not the claims have any merit is immaterial, the risk alone is enough.

The infamous strategy that IBM made popular: "see, we have this bunch of patents here. If you want to go to court rather than settle then we have some tens of hundreds more of them".

simplezz said,

If the said companies were serious about stopping infringing IP, they'd sue Google directly and have them remove supposedly offending parts from the OS. But that's not their objective - which is to damage the competition, either through product bans (Apple), or by taxation and forced production of WP (Microsoft).

No it's not. It's about being paid for their efforts. Who said it's about trying to force OEMs to use Microsoft's operating system? They're using Microsoft's technology that hasn't been paid for, and Microsoft wants payment for it. It's just that simple. You're the nut job with the conspiracy theories.

continued

This has been argued ad nauseam. As any IP lawyer would tell you, it's almost always better to settle than risk a lengthy and costly trail where the outcome is unknown. The majority of patents are invalidated when tested in court, but you only need one or two to get a big payout. Microsoft and Apple have thousand of dubious patents, and that's enough to threaten any company into licensing. Whether or not the claims have any merit is immaterial, the risk alone is enough.

"A lengthy and costly trail"? Wait, wait, no. It was purported by people like you (Actually, you've just done it) that the patents these companies hold have no merit and don't hold water, so the outcome is known (By your very own words), challenge it and get rid of them forever. Hell, Google could do this themselves if it wanted to, to further enhance the value of their product to OEMs by challenging these patents in court, win (Because it's blatantly obvious they're frivolous, am I right?), and free Android and its OEMs from having to license this technology at all.

A patent portfolio is useless against patent trolls, the whole idea of being a troll is that you own patents but not products and hence you can sue without being sued back.

Same applies to proxy companies that share the same characteristics as trolls but act in behalf of other companies, like that Rockstar consortium.

ichi said,
A patent portfolio is useless against patent trolls, the whole idea of being a troll is that you own patents but not products and hence you can sue without being sued back.

Exactly. Countersuits don't work against non-practising entities. That's the fear about Nokia after the MS deal. It might work to deter other companies like Apple and Microsoft from attacking / extorting Android directly though. Certainly they'll be less inclined to risk a countersuit.

ichi said,

Same applies to proxy companies that share the same characteristics as trolls but act in behalf of other companies, like that Rockstar consortium.

Rockstar is definitely a troll. Just look at their activities, such as setting up a sham shell company in east texas one day before filing lawsuits against Android makers. A judge berated them recently for their troll-like behaviour.

ichi said,
A patent portfolio is useless against patent trolls, the whole idea of being a troll is that you own patents but not products and hence you can sue without being sued back.

Same applies to proxy companies that share the same characteristics as trolls but act in behalf of other companies, like that Rockstar consortium.


That's not exactly correct, these patents can nullify other patents from patent trolls and prevent stuff from being patented by patent trolls since they've already got the patent themselves.

Seahorsepip said,

That's not exactly correct, these patents can nullify other patents from patent trolls and prevent stuff from being patented by patent trolls since they've already got the patent themselves.

Well yes, at best it could stop trolls from buying the patents. They had already been granted to Foxconn in this case so a troll wouldn't be able to patent the same stuff.