Motorola signals intent to begin patent action against other Android licenseesWhile Google has accused Apple, Microsoft and Oracle of a conspiracy to bring down its Android platform using patent infringement claims, Google's own licensees are suing each other, with Motorola intimating its intent to join this trend.
Motorola is one of few companies to move exclusively to Google's Android platform; Samsung, LG, HTC and other leading mobile makers have retained relationships with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, or maintain their own mobile platform, like Samsung's Bada.
Licensees of Android have largely joined Google's program with the intent of sharing the costs of mobile development to benefit from economies of scale and avoid the risk and expense of developing their own proprietary mobile software.
However, that doesn't mean they plan to remain loyal to Android to a fault. Speaking at the Oppenheimer Technology and Communications Conference, Motorola Mobility's chairman and chief executive Dr. Sanjay Jha indicated that his company planned to leverage its differentiation among other Android licenses by seeking royalties from its intellectual property war chest.
"We have a very large IP portfolio," Jha stated, "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.
Motorola's saber rattling is not new, as the company has already launched patent claims against Apple starting in October of 2010. Apple responded with patent counterclaims of its own, and has since acted to broaden an injunction that successfully stopped Samsung's Galaxy Tab sales in Europe to also cover Motorola's Xoom.
This spring, Motorola was also reported to have started work on its own web-based mobile operating system independent from Android as a skunkworks project.
Jha had noted a year ago during the company's earnings call that "Ive always felt that owning your OS is important, provided you have an ecosystem, you have all the services and you have an ability and the scale to execute on keeping that OS at the leading edge. And I continue to believe that at some point, if we have all of those attributes, that owning our own OS will be a very important thing."
Motorola's extensive mobile patent portfolio, combined with its interests in owning its own OS, could push Google to add its current Android licensee to the list of companies it is accusing of waging an "organized campaign" against Android once Motorola begins its attempts to monetize its intellectual property in a way that interferes with Google's efforts to monetize the mobile devices running its software platform.
In the most recent quarter, Motorola joined fellow beleaguered Android licensees LG and Sony Ericsson in actually losing money in the mobile phone market.