Google hires FTC patent expert


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Google may not have paid a lot of attention to patents for years. But the Internet search giant is certainly paying attention now.

Google has hired one of the Federal Trade Commission’s top patent lawyers, the company confirmed Tuesday.


Suzanne Michel is leaving her job as deputy director of policy planning at the FTC to join Google’s legal team. Why this matters? Google is gearing up for a patent war.

Michel worked for the FTC for more than 11 years, concentrating on patent antitrust issues and patent policy, and was the author of a patent report the FTC issued in March that examined the patent system in the U.S. with the goal of promoting innovation.

Google recently bought more than 1,000 patents from IBM Corp. to defend itself from an onslaught of patent infringement litigation.

Apple, Microsoft and other rivals outbid Google last month in the biggest patent auction in history, $4.5 billion for more than 6,000 patents and applications for wireless technologies purchased from bankrupt Nortel Networks. Published reports say the U.S. Justice Department is examining the sale to see whether it harms competition in the smartphone industry.

Google is also embroiled in high-stakes patent litigation with Oracle Corp. The company sued Google last year in federal court, claiming its Android mobile device software infringes Oracle’s Java patents, which it picked up in 2010 when it bought Sun Microsystems Inc. Oracle is seeking billions of dollars in damages. The case is set for trial in October.



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-- Jessica Guynn