For some reason the Google news about the acquisition of Motorola Mobility made me think of a song about nuclear proliferation written by Tom Lehrer for the 1965 album That Was The Year That Was. The rift is below, and the core strategic principle holds true for Google…especially if you sub out the word “Lord” for Google’s steadfast belief in openness. (This song was written at a time when Egypt and Israel were openly hostile.)
Google, I imagine, faces the reality that wars are often caused by undefended wealth, and that in many ways Android was/is undefended by patents when compared to the patent portfolios available to competitors. Sometimes an adequate arsenal of your own is the only way to imagine peace on your terms. There is no denying that when in the hands of rational actors, weapons of merit can keep the peace.
The weak cannot grant peace. Only the strong can. In the IP technical arena, acquiring enforceable patents and the means to enforce them is an important way to become strong. Buying patent portfolios, a central feature of the Motorola Mobility acquisition, does not mean that Google is or must give up the idea of openness as a business strategy for its IP. It just needs a way to defend its strategy from competitors who have their own interests in mind and otherwise a way to attack Google at an advantage. In a sense, the better Google can enforce exclusivity if it wants to, the more open it may be able to become.
Image credit: United States Department of Energy