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Google buys patents from IBM

July 29, 2011 | 11:01 am

Google

Google has a patent problem. Its lack of an intellectual property portfolio has made it vulnerable to legal assault.

But the Internet search giant is fighting back. It beefed up its portfolio in July with the purchase of more than 1,000 patents from IBM. The purchase was first reported by a Virginia-based research firm.

A Google spokesman would not comment on purchase price.

"Like many tech companies, at times we'll acquire patents that are relevant to our business needs," a Google spokesman said in an emailed statement. "Bad software patent litigation is a wasteful war that no one will win."

Chris Andrews, an IBM spokesman, declined to comment.

Google tried to buy patents from bankrupt phone equipment maker Nortel Networks in April but was outbid by rivals including Apple, Microsoft and Research in Motion which make devices that compete with Android.

As its Android mobile software has been targeted in legal complaints, Google has called on Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to curb patent infringement lawsuits. It also has asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to review patents being used in litigation. 

Google faces a high-stakes patent infringement battle with Oracle. Oracle alleges that Google's Android mobile device software infringes on Oracle's Java patents, which it picked up in 2010 when it bought Sun Microsystems. Oracle is seeking billions of dollars in damages.

Google's general counsel Kent Walker has argued that patent infringement litigation stifles innovation and harms consumers. Google makes its open-source Android software available for free. 

Critics say Google has so few patents because it got into the mobile game long after others. The first Android phones went on sale in 2008.

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-- Jessica Guynn

Photo credit: Virginia Mayo / Associated Press

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