Google Takes Aim at Rockstar in Patent Feud

, The Litigation Daily

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Google has opened up a new front in its patent battle with Rockstar Consortium, an entity formed by a group of its competitors including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

In a 13-page complaint filed in the Northern District of California, Google asked for a declaratory judgment that it doesn't infringe seven patents Rockstar acquired from Nortel Networks Inc. Rockstar has asserted these same patents in infringement lawsuits against gadget-makers that use Google's Android operating system, and Google said it felt compelled to act. "Rockstar's litigation campaign has placed a cloud on Google's Android platform [and] threatened Google's business," the search giant's lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan alleged.

In 2011, after Nortel declared bankruptcy, smartphone companies engaged in a bidding war over Nortel's prized patent portfolio. Google bid as much as $4.4 billion. But the winning bid of $4.5 billion came from Rockstar, an entity created by Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion Inc., and other Google competitors. Apple disclosed in a regulatory filing that it contributed "approximately $2.6 billion" of that sum.

Rockstar's lawyers at Susman Godfrey sued Google on October 31, alleging it infringed several Nortel patents relating to internet search advertising. That same day, Rockstar asserted a different set of patents against a group of smartphone manufacturers including Samsung Electronics Co., HTC Corp and LG Electronics Co. that use the Android ecosystem. It's the smartphone patents that are at issue in Google's filing on Monday.

Google, which is seeking a declaratory ruling on the smartphone patents, likely had strategic reasons for suing in Northern California. Rockstar, based in Plano, Texas, brought its cases in U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas, a venue with a plaintiff-friendly reputation. Defendants in Eastern Texas patent cases often try to shift the litigation to their home forums.

Matthew Warren of Quinn Emanuel, who represents Google, declined to comment. We didn't immediately hear back from Max Tribble of Susman Godfrey, who represents Rockstar.

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