Google’s $12.5B deal for Motorola Mobility shakes up the mobile market

Google's latest move could help the company's standing in the tablet market.

School technology buyers will be watching to see how Google’s $12.5 billion deal to buy Motorola’s mobile technology unit affects the market for mobile devices.

If approved by federal regulators, the deal announced Aug. 15 gives Google control over a key manufacturer of devices that run on its open-source Android operating system.

But the big prize isn’t Motorola’s lineup of cell phones and computer tablets, analysts say: It’s Motorola’s more than 17,000 patents—a crucial weapon in an intellectual arms race with Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle to gain more control over the increasingly lucrative mobile device market.

Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility also could trigger more multibillion-dollar buyouts. Nokia Corp., another cell-phone manufacturer, and Research In Motion Ltd., which makes the BlackBerry, loom as prime targets.

Analysts say Motorola’s patents will help Google defend Android, its operating system for mobile devices, against a litany of lawsuits alleging that Google and its partners pilfered the innovations of other companies.

In addition to the existing trove of patents that attracted Google’s interest, Motorola—which introduced its first cell phone nearly 30 years ago—has 7,500 others awaiting approval.

Phone makers and software companies are engaged in all-out combat over patents for mobile devices. The tussle has been egged on by the U.S. patent system, which makes it possible to patent any number of phone features.