[FSFE PR][EN] Rockstar vs. Google: Software patents as a license for privateering

Free Software Foundation Europe press at fsfeurope.org
Thu Nov 7 12:18:41 CET 2013

[Read online: http://fsfe.org/news/2013/news-20131107-01.en.html ]

Rockstar, a consortium of companies formed to collect certain patents
put on sale in the dissolution procedure of Nortel, has sued[1] Google
and other companies over seven of those patents.

FSFE voiced serious concerns and warned[2] competition regulators
against exactly such a scenario in December 2011. Previously, the US
Department of Justice had imposed limits on another, similar
transaction: The buyers software company Novell's patent portfolio had
to accept limits on the things they could do with the those patents. In
particular, they were prevented from using them against Free Software.

But when Rockstar bought Nortel's patent, things were different.
Whatever promises, if any, the US competition regulators managed to
extract from the companies that make up Rockstar - Microsoft, Apple,
RIM, Ericsson, and Sony - are clearly ineffective. Rockstar's CEO is
even reported as publicly stating[3] that he does not feel bound by any
such commitments. The result is an entirely predictable lawsuit where a
proxy company is using generic, overbroad patents in order to harm a

"Patents on software are a dangerous business risk at the best of
times," says Carlo Piana, FSFE's General Counsel. "In highly competitive
markets like the one for mobile devices, they are essentially a license
for privateering."

This case highlights the need for regulators to monitor patent
transactions tightly, and analyse their consequences carefully. Lawsuits
such as this strangle innovation and impose a private tax on productive

For further information, please contact Karsten Gerloff.
Email: gerloff [at] fsfeurope.org
Phone: +4917696904298

 1. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/10/patent-war-goes-nuclear-microsoft-apple-owned-rockstar-sues-google/
 2. https://fsfe.org/campaigns/swpat/nortel.en.html
 3. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/10/patent-war-goes-nuclear-microsoft-apple-owned-rockstar-sues-google/

  == About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==

  The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
  non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
  involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
  participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in
  the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
  Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
  furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
  modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these issues,
  securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving people
  Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central issues
  of the FSFE.


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