With the mobile industry awash in patent lawsuits, two of the biggest players have reached a sweeping global patent cross-licensing agreement. Granted, those companies—Google and Samsung—are also the two biggest partners that have benefited from the success of Android. But the deal could help protect each firm from other patent-based lawsuits, and could pave the way for further agreements.
"We're pleased to enter into a cross-license with our partner Samsung," Google deputy general counsel for patents Allen Lo said in a prepared statement. "By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation."
According to a joint announcement from both companies, the deal grants Samsung and Google access to each other's mobile patent portfolios, which the firms say will "pave the way for deeper collaboration on research and development of current and future products and technologies." The agreement is in place for 10 years.
That may or may not happen, but the real aim of this deal, clearly, is to begin the process of ending the damaging, time-consuming and expensive series of patent battles that are currently sweeping the industry. And the language of the announcement seems calculated to convince others in the industry that a combined Google and Samsung is simply too big and too powerful to be defeated.
"[We] are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes," says Dr. Seungho Ahn, who heads up Samsung's Intellectual Property Center.
It's possible that the Google/Samsung patent alliance will help drive talks between Samsung and Apple towards a mutually beneficial outcome. The two firms—sometimes rivals, sometimes partners—have recently begun talking about settling a patent infringement lawsuit that is currently scheduled for a March trial.
Aside from the patent agreement, the Google/Samsung partnership has already resulted in a technology duopoly—Google's Android OS and Samsung's handset and tablet hardware—that is starting the rival the Microsoft/Intel duopoly of the PC world. Android dominates the smart phone world with over 82 percent market share, while Samsung is the biggest seller of smart phones. And while Apple's iPad is still the single best-selling tablet model, Android is now responsible for over 65 percent of sales in that market as well.