Google turns again to IBM in patent-nabbing spree

The search giant lands another batch of more than 1,000 IBM patents, in fields ranging from "communications on a network" to "audio communications."

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Google has acquired more than 1,000 patents from IBM, a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office posting has revealed.

According to documents on the government organization's Web site, 1,023 patents were transferred from IBM to Google on August 17. That number could be off by one: SEO by the Sea, a blog covering the search space that first reported on the August acquisition, says that Google might have actually only received 1,022 patents, since one of the numbers "appears to be wrong."

Either way, Google has acquired a boatload of new patents covering a wide range of markets. According to the USPTO site, Google has acquired everything from "communications on a network" to "audio communications." The search company also acquired patents related to signature verification on documents and "animation reuse in three dimensional virtual reality."

The companies first linked up in July when Google also acquired over 1,000 patents from IBM. Like Google's most recent acquisition, those patents stretched across multiple markets and related to everything from "Web-based querying" to "fabrication and architecture of memory and microprocessing chips."

Although Google didn't say at the time how much it spent on the first batch of IBM patents, a spokesperson told CNET in a statement that the company will, from time to time, "acquire patents that are relevant to our business needs."

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Those "business needs" might only be a response to the recent gold rush for patents across the industry. In June, a consortium of companies, including Apple, Microsoft, and Research In Motion, announced that they had acquired 6,000 patents and patent applications from bankrupt telecom-equipment company Nortel Networks for $4.5 billion. Google, which had been vying for those patents, quickly responded with its first IBM patent acquisition.

But the search giant wasn't done. Last month, it announced plans to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. Following the announcement, Google wasn't shy in saying that a key reason for its acquisition was to bolster its patent portfolio with Motorola Mobility's 17,000 approved patents, and another 7,500 patents awaiting approval.

"We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android," Google CEO Larry Page said in a blog post announcing the Motorola Mobility acquisition. "The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to 'protect competition and innovation in the open source software community' and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction. Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies."

Google did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment on how its latest IBM patent acquisition might also help to protect the company from Android threats. The firm has also yet to respond to a CNET query on how much it spent for the IBM patents. IBM has not immediately responded to CNET's request for comment either.