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Thursday, September 01, 2011, 09:56 pm PT (12:56 am ET)

Google exec reiterates Motorola purchase not just for patents

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said his company bought Motorola Mobility for its products, as well as its patents, while noting that the current state of patents in the U.S. is a "terrible."

Speaking at a Salesforce.com conference, Schmidt said, “We did it for more than just patents. The Motorola team has some amazing products,” downplaying the role the company's 25,000 patents and pending filings played in the deal, Bloomberg reports. The former CEO's position, however, backpedals from the company's early strong stance that patents were the primary reason for purchase.

The executive called the current patent issue "terrible," voicing concerns that "overbroad patents will somehow slow" innovation in the software industry, as noted by TechCrunch.

Schmidt also addressed the Nortel patent auction that saw Google lose out to Apple and other competitors after a fierce bidding war, calling the patents "questionable" and the final $4.5 billion bid "too pricey." The Mountain View, Calif., company has characterized the Nortel deal, as well as other group patent purchases, as a conspiracy by competitors to block its Android mobile operating system.

Google announced its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility in August, billing it as a way to "supercharge Android, enhance competition, and offer wonderful user experiences." Chief Legal Officer David C. Drummond said Motorola's patent portfolio would help Google fight off "some very aggressive licensing demands in the Android ecosystem."

Larry Page, CEO and co-founder of the search giant, published a blog post shortly after the deal was announced, characterizing it as a way to protect itself from "anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies."

However, recent analyses from intellectual property experts have suggested that Google overpaid for the company, as its patents, despite being numerous, may not provide as much protection as previously thought.

Schmidt


"What they bought is crap, because at the end of the day Motorola sold off its good assets," said Dr. David Martin, founder and chairman of M-Cam Inc, in an interview. Martin also added that Google actually increased its patent vulnerability with the deal.

Patent specialist Florian Mueller reports that many of Motorola's patents are already committed to F/RAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) terms that limit their defensive usefulness.

Schmidt's comments on Thursday also run counter to an assertion by Sony Ericsson executive Nikolaus Scheurer that "Google confirmed that this [acquisition] is not making Google a hardware manufacturer."

The executive did take the time to praise Apple during his interview. As a former Apple board member before a conflict of interest forced him to resign, Schmidt praised Apple co-founder CEO for giving the "best performance of a CEO in 50 years."

“We’ve all benefited from the tremendous innovation at Apple. And I say this as a very proud former board member at Apple,” he said. Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO in late August, leaving Tim Cook to serve in his stead.

But, Schmidt's remarks from Thursday on Apple's innovations stand in contrast to comments he made in July where he accused competitors like Apple of "responding with lawsuits as they cannot respond through innovations."