While announcing his company's decision to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion today, Google CEO Larry Page said that the deal would help fight off patent suits against Android vendors and would "increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio." Google's Motorola announcement came less than two weeks after the company publicly lashed out at Microsoft, Apple and Oracle for allegedly waging "a hostile, organized campaign against Android ... waged through bogus patents."
Both Apple and Microsoft have been very aggressive in recent years in pressing patent claims against vendors who sell devices based on Google's Android operating system, which has been ostensibly free to use for device makers since its debut in 2007. The most recent big development in the Android patent saga came last month when a judge at the International Trade Commission ruled that HTC's Android-based smartphones had key features that infringed upon two Apple patents. If the ruling is made final later this year, it means that HTC could be barred from importing its Android phones into the U.S. Microsoft has also successfully sued some Android manufacturers such as HTC and is generating an estimated $5 in extra revenue every time HTC ships an Android-based device, according to a report by Citi analyst Walter Pritchard.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt signaled that Google would step up its game to more aggressively defend Android manufacturers from patent suits last month when he pledged that Google would "make sure" that HTC didn't lose its appeal of the ITC's initial verdict. However, the Motorola buy now puts Google directly in the center of the Android patent wars as it gives the company a major incentive to defend its turf as an Android device manufacturer. What's more, Google's leap into the patent fray will likely benefit other Android vendors since Google is still pledging solidarity with all its partners in the Android device-making coalition that Google CEO Larry Page said had contributed to making Android a success.