A mobile computing patent war launched by powerful tech rivals could snatch revenue away from Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android platform - and possibly threaten its viability as a free alternative operating system.
The threat to Android endangers as much as $2 billion in annual revenue for the search titan.
Google's rivals - which include such tech giants as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) - have filed 48 patent infringement lawsuits against the Mountain View, CA company and many of its hardware partners.
Google rarely countersues, the most common way of battling patent lawsuits, because of its relatively paltry patent portfolio. Google has only about 700 patents, compared to about 4,000 for Apple and more than 17,000 for Microsoft.
So it stung particularly badly when Google lost the most recent patent wars battle by failing to win the auction for bankrupt Nortel Networks Corp.'s (PINK: NRLTQ) 6,000 patents earlier this month.
Instead, a consortium of its mobile computing competitors - Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM), Sony Corp. (NYSE ADR: SNE) and LM Ericsson (Nasdaq ADR: ERIC) - won the Nortel patents with a bid of $4.5 billion.
"In the patent wars that are raging in the mobile computing world, this could turn out to beGoogle's Waterloo," observed The Financial Times.