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7/29/2011
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Google Acquires 1,000 IBM Patents

Search giant is tight-lipped about the purpose of the transaction, but the filings cover everything from chips to databases.

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Google has purchased more than 1,000 patents from IBM in an effort to build up its intellectual property portfolio, possibly with an eye to fending off the increasing number of IP lawsuits the search giant faces from competitors such as Microsoft.

The 1,030 patents cover a wide range of technologies, including "the fabrication and architecture of memory and microprocessing chips," according to the blog SEO By The Sea, which first spotted the filings.

They also pertain to several other key aspects of computing infrastructure, including servers and routers. Google does not make such hardware, but has built a number of massive data centers that use such technology internally to store and serve up terabytes of data through its search engine and other cloud products.

Some of the patents also apply to relational databases, object oriented programming, and certain business processes.

Google has said little about its motive behind the transaction. "Like many tech companies, at times we'll acquire patents that are relevant to our business needs. Bad software patent litigation is a wasteful war that no one will win," the company said in an emailed to InformationWeek. A Google spokesman declined to provide details about the price paid for the patents or the company's intent. IBM officials were not immediately available for comment.

Speculation is ranging from a possible new product introduction, to the search giant's need to protect itself from the ever-increasing threat of intellectual property lawsuits.

Looming large in the latter scenario is Microsoft, which has asserted patent claims against the manufacturers of Android-based smartphones. Among the companies that pay Microsoft royalties on their Android phones is handset market leader HTC. Some industry watchers believe it's only a matter of time before Redmond challenges Google itself over Android technology.

Google officials have said recently that the company needs to build up its patent trove as a preemptive move against patent suits. "Some of these lawsuits have been filed by people or companies that have never actually created anything; others are motivated by a desire to block competing products or profit from the success of a rival's new technology," Google senior VP and general counsel Kent Walker said in a recent blog post.

Walker's comments came in April, when Google unsuccessfully sought to acquire Nortel's patent portfolio. The portfolio of 6,000 patents ultimately sold for $4.5 billion to a coalition of companies that included Microsoft and Apple.

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