Google acquires 1,030 patents from IBM to play defense

As patent lawsuits become ever more frequent, companies are building up their portfolios in an effect to protect themselves from litigation. Google is no stranger to this practice, as it confirmed on Friday it had purchased 1,030 patents from IBM. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

No doubt Google is still smarting from its loss to Apple in the race to acquire the intellectual property of Nortel Networks. The company was the odd man out in bidding for Nortel's technologies. It appears that the IBM patent purchase occurred some time in the middle of this month, indicating Google quickly moved on.

Technologies included in the patents cover chip fabrication and design, computer architecture designs, relational databases, business processes, and object oriented programming, according to SEO By The Sea, which first reported of the sale Thursday.

While Google has publicly called for patent reform, at the same time it has engaged in the practice of everyone else: load up on as many patents as you can.

"The patent system should reward those who create the most useful innovations for society, not those who stake bogus claims or file dubious lawsuits," Google general counsel Kent Walker said back in April.

Google's attempted purchase of Nortel's intellectual property was meant to "create a disincentive for others to sue Google," he said at the time. "In the absence of meaningful reform, we believe it's the best long-term solution for Google, our users and our partners." It's likely that Google is employing a similar strategy with the IBM buy.

It could also take another big step into patent ownership with the acquisition of a patent-holding company, InterDigital. That company makes no products, but owns and licenses thousands of patents. InterDigital is involved in patent litigation with Nokia, Samsung, and several other companies over various wireless technologies including 3G.

Apple is also said to be interested in InterDigital as well, meaning Google very well could be thwarted by the suits in Cupertino once again when it comes to building their patent portfolio.

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