The Google bid for Motorola is indeed puzzling in some respects.

Why would Google want to compromise the independence of its Android system in this way? Now it’s in handset competition with the likes of Samsung and who have previously made big commitments to Android. Why would it want to be in the handset business at all given that it is low margin and very tough?

The only answer can lie in the 17,000 patents Motorola possesses. These are big negotiating currency in the competition between major hardware companies. Apple recently had to pay millions of dollars to Nokia and ongoing licence royalties in order to settle outstanding patent disputes. HTC is anticipating a similar outcome having acquired S3 – a company which has just won a similar preliminary ITC judgement against Apple in relation to patent infringement. Ericsson and Sony recently paid an eye watering US$4.5 billion for some 6,000 Nortel patents on the same basis.

Perhaps Google sees Motorola’s patents in purely negotiating terms, as a spoiler for competition and an important insurance policy for itself. After all, having “rules and regulations” on your side is an important piece of bargaining power in any negotiation…