In 2011 Intellectual Ventures sued Motorola, claiming the mobile phone maker infringed smartphone-related technology patents. Motorola has denied the allegations and will go to trial over three of those patents. So, this week Intellectual Ventures is set to face Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility unit in the first trial that the multibillion-dollar patent-buying firm has undertaken.

The trial is taking place during a debate in Congress over patent reform, in which Intellectual Ventures and Google are on opposite sides. Google is backing attempts to curb software patents and make it easier to fight lawsuits, while IV has warned that Congress should not act rashly to weaken patent owners’ rights.

As of late, IV and other aggregators have faced criticism from the technology industry, whose members argue that patent litigation has become a burdensome tax on innovation. They say firms like IV are exploiting the patent system. IV argues that unlike some of the firms denounced as “patent trolls,” it invests only in quality intellectual property and does not file frivolous lawsuits.

If the jury rules against Motorola and uphold IV’s patents, it could strengthen the firm’s argument that it does not buy frivolous patents, according to Shubha Ghosh, a University of Wisconsin Law School professor. But, a win for Motorola could be held up as evidence that the government issues too many dubious patents.

Since it was founded in 2000, IV has raised $6 billion from investors and has bought tens of thousands of intellectual property assets. In fact, Google was an investor in IV’s first patent acquisition fund.  In 2010, IV filed a barrage of lawsuits against companies in various sectors, and most defendants have since settled.

According to government records, two of the patents in the upcoming Motorola trial cover inventions by Richard Reisma. Through his company, Teleshuttle, Reisman has developed patent portfolios for various technologies, including an online update service. IV claims that the two Reisman patents cover several of Motorola’s older cellphones that have Google Play – a platform for Android smartphone apps. Motorola argues that IV’s patents should never have been issued because the inventions were known in the field already.

Further, one of the patents in play against Motorola has been in a courtroom before. Teleshuttle and a British partner, BTG, sued Microsoft and Apple in 2004 using one of the same patents now in play against Motorola.  In 2006, Teleshuttle and BTG sold their patent rights to Twintech EU LLC for $35 million up front, plus a percentage of future licensing fees. At the same time as the sale, BTG and Teleshuttle withdrew their cases against Apple and Microsoft.

Another patent being asserted against Motorola was originally issued to Rajendra Kumar in 2006. Kumar’s company, Khyber Technologies, transferred it to Balustare Processing NY LLC in July 2011, which passed it over to IV about a month later. The patent that IV obtained from Khyber covers detachable handset technology, which IV claims Motorola used in its defunct Lapdock product.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday at a federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

General counsel and state attorneys general alike have turned their attention to the issue, and an assortment of AGs and GCs will be speaking about the topic at an upcoming roundtable event. The free event will take place on Feb. 4, 2014 from 3:00-5:00 pm at the Intercontinental New York Barclay. It will feature the attorneys general from Nebraska, Missouri and Vermont as well as the general counsel from Walmart, du Pont and Rackspace. For more information, or to register for the event, click here.


For more on patent litigation, check out these articles:

IP: The murky morass plaguing the patent system

IP: IP lawyers in the spotlight

Mitigating smartphone patent litigation

7 steps to consider before licensing intellectual property agreements