A new front opened today in the patent wars between large technology companies, as a consortium that owns thousands of patents from the Nortel bankruptcy auction filed suit against Google and other manufacturers alleging infringement. Rockstar, which is owned jointly by Apple, Blackberry, Ericsson, Microsoft, and Sony, filed suit in US District Court in Texas. In addition to Google, the consortium has alleged infringement by Asus, HTC, Huawei, LG, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE.
The suits open up two lines of attack on hardware manufacturers. Rockstar is suing Google over patents that lie at the heart of its search advertising business, and it's suing Google's hardware manufacturing partners over the devices that run Android. Suing Asus, for example, amounts to an attack on the Nexus 7, which Asus manufactures for Google. "While we haven't yet been served with this complaint, we continue to advocate for patent reform that would address the current flood of patent litigation," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
The move comes almost two years after the US Department of Justice approved the sale of the patents to Rockstar. The consortium spent $4.5 billion to buy more than 6,000 patents from Nortel in an auction in which Google was also a bidder. At the time, the Department of Justice said that members of the consortium committed to licensing so-called standard essential patents, which undergird many basic technologies in cell phones and other devices, on fair terms.