Recall that Rockstar started asserting patents it acquired from Nortel by filing a lawsuit in E.D. Tex. on Halloween against Google and certain Android handset manufacturers (see our Nov. post that also summarizes Rockstar’s acquisition of Nortel’s patents). On Christmas Eve, Google responded by filing a Complaint in N.D. Cal. seeking a declaratory judgment that the patents asserted against Android handsets are not infringed. On New Year’s Eve, Rockstar responded by filing an Amended Complaint against Samsung that adds Google as a co-defendant based on Google’s Nexus line of handsets manufactured by Samsung.
Rockstar’s lawsuits against Google and Android manufacturers were principally brought by Rockstar and its subsidiaries to whom Rockstar transferred small groupings of its patents — i.e., Netstar Technologies LLC (for patents raised against Google’s search technology in one E.D. Tex. action) and Mobilestar Technologies LLC (for the other E.D. Tex. actions raised against Android manufacturers and now Google). Rockstar’s fractionalization of the large Nortel portfolio into small groupings also is evident from other recent Rockstar lawsuits. For example, Rockstar transferred some patents to an entity named Bockstar Technologies LLC that filed a Complaint against Cisco in D. Del on Dec. 11. And Rockstar transferred other patents to an entity named Constellation Technologies LLC that filed on Dec. 11 a Complaint against cable operator Time Warner Cable and another Complaint against cable operator Windstream in E.D. Tex.
Rockstar also reportedly transferred patents to some of its stakeholders, such as Apple. And Rockstar has sold some patents to other entities — e.g., sale to Spherix in July — and is seeking to sell others. Earlier this year it was rumored that BlackBerry was seeking to sell its stake in Rockstar and current rumors in the past week or so are that Rockstar is seeking to sell most of its portfolio (but not patents in the current litigation). At least some of the patents identified for sale appear to be subject to specific licensing commitments that prior owner Nortel made to standard setting organizations such as IEEE or IETF.
The Rockstar saga is a fascinating one we’ve been following for many reasons, including the standard essential patent issues and other issues currently receiving significant attention in the patent bar:
- Non-practicing, non-innovating patent monetization entities
- RAND and other licensing rights surviving purchase from bankruptcy or transfer
- Standard essential patents that may be subject to standard setting licensing obligations and those that may not
- Fractionalized dispersing of a large patent portfolio
We will continue to watch things unfold and keep you posted.