Verizon officials said Google’s planned buyout of Motorola Mobility may bring stability to the increasing number of smartphone patent disputes, but did not completely endorse the plan.
Google announced the proposed $12.5 billion bid, saying it was buying Motorola primarily for its nearly 17,000 patents, which Google will use to protect its Android system from lawsuits brought by rival Apple and other competitors.
One analyst noted Motorola also has approximately 7,500 patents pending, which, if the sale goes through, will come under Google’s control. Google’s own patent portfolio is thin in comparison with other tech companies, which has put it at a disadvantage until now.
John Thorne, Verizon’s senior vice president and deputy general counsel, said Google’s new patent holdings are a welcome development as they may bring more security to Android. Verizon is the first U.S. cellular provider to comment on the Motorola buyout, and Thorne said it “will be looking with interest as further details of the proposed transaction become clear.”
Verizon has a great deal at stake with Android-based phones, so any deal that could help protect the OS from court challenges would likely benefit the telecommunications giant as well.
The New York-based company services nearly half of all active Android phones in North America, and was the first U.S. wireless company to base most of its phones on Google’s OS. The iPhone became one of Verizon’s top sellers this year, but Verizon still sells millions of Android smartphones, including Motorola’s Droid line.
Verizon just last month unveiled the Motorola Droid 3, the latest of its top-of-the line Android phones. And while Verizon depends heavily on iPhone sales, its Android lineup, including the HTC Thunderbolt, Samsung Droid Charge and LG Revolution, still makes up an important component of Verizon’s revenue.
In upcoming months, Verizon rely even more on Android to keep it competitive. Phone makers like Samsung and HTC, who use Android, Tuesday said the Google buyout will protect their phones because the newly acquired Motorola patents will be an important asset in their own legal troubles as patent lawsuits proceed. The Motorola patents may help keep them on the market and keep innovation coming, which may benefit Verizon by giving it even more Android phones to sell.
While Verizon isn’t commenting much about the Google deal quite yet, it may come out in favour of the sale if Google’s new patents can protect its highly profitable Android line.