By Jordan Crook
No doubt you’ve heard about Google’s (GOOG) ever-increasing struggle with patents, namely that it can’t protect Android. If it’s not Apple (AAPL) going after Samsung (SSNLF.PK) and HTC directly, it’s Oracle (ORCL), Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple stealing away Nortel (NT)/Novell patents. It’s gotten so bad that Microsoft and Google entered into a rather public spat over Twitter and Google’s own blog, where Google finally fought back and accused other companies of trying to “strangle” Android with “bogus patents.” In short, Google has some major Android problems on its hands, and the gravity of the situation just intensified quite a bit.
Motorola (MMI), which has long been one of Google’s key Android partners, happens to have a pretty massive patent portfolio. You’d think that would work in Google’s favor, since at least one of its major partners can hold its own against the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Yeah, not so much. Motorola has actually hinted, and subsequently more-than-hinted, that it may “potentially collect royalties” with its patent trove, rather than just defend itself, reports Unwired View.
During a keynote at Oppenhimer Technology & Communication’s conference, Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha said:
I would bring up IP as very important for differentiation (among Android vendors). We have a very large IP portfolio, and I think in the long term, as things settle down, you will see a meaningful difference in positions of many different Android players. Both, in terms of avoidance of royalties, as well as potentially being able to collect royalties. And that will make a big difference to people who have very strong IP positions.
Here’s the thing: Out of our three major Android manufacturers — Samsung, HTC, and Motorola — Motorola seems to be the one with the least growth, despite the fact that it’s been around the longest. That’s not to say that Motorola is performing poorly. Quite the contrary actually, seeing Mobile Devices revenue growing 44 percent year-over-year. But compared with the exponential growth of Samsung and HTC, that isn’t much to brag about.
As HTC and Samsung continue to succeed, Motorola must “differentiate,” as Mr. Jha notes. Collecting royalties from competitors isn’t exactly differentiating the brand, but it will shake up the way these companies are positioning themselves. The only problem is that Motorola may blow itself up in the process. If it drops a bomb on other Android manufacturers and starts yet another costly web of patent wars among its competition, Motorola effectively hurts Android as a whole, and thus, itself.