Battles over patents are becoming fiercer and more expensive
THIS deal is all about patents. That was the near universal view of Google’s announcement this week that it was taking over Motorola Mobility, a maker of handsets and other devices, for a colossal $12.5 billion. Indeed, the purchase will provide Google with an awful lot of patents: around 17,000 of them issued and another 7,500 pending. They should help Google in its efforts to get more smartphones and other mobile devices running on its Android operating system (see article). But it could also make the battles over patents nastier and more costly.
这笔交易归根结蒂就是谋求专利。这是多数人对谷歌本周宣布以125亿美元天价收购手机及其他电子产品制造商摩托罗拉这一消息的普遍看法。实际上，此项交易为谷歌带来数量极其庞大的专利：约1.7万项已审批，另外7500项待审批。这些专利有助于歌获得更多运行安卓操作系统的智能手机以及其他移动设备 (见 文)。但是这也会使对专利的争夺愈演愈烈，代价更高。
A scramble for patents had already begun. In December four companies, including Microsoft and Apple, paid $450m for around 880 patents and applications owned by Novell, an ailing software firm. In July those two and four others, including Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, spent $4.5 billion on 6,000 patents owned by Nortel, a bankrupt Canadian telecoms-equipment maker. Before its latest deal, Google bought 1,000 patents from IBM. Firms are also suing each other. Apple claims its technology has been copied by Samsung and Motorola in their Android phones. Oracle is suing Google for up to $6 billion, claiming that Android infringes its patents. Microsoft is suing Motorola over Android too. Nokia recently settled a similar quarrel with Apple.
What is going on? Some say companies are attaching more value to intellectual property. Indeed, the Google deal seems to have been priced on a cost-per-patent basis, causing the share prices of other firms with lots of patents to rise. Others, however, think the battles reflect deficiencies in the patent system forcing firms to pay vast sums to protect technologies they have developed. The answer is a bit of both.