Google, Samsung strike cross-licensing patent deal

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Samsung Electronics forged a wide-ranging, patent-licensing deal that covers the companies' existing patent portfolios and all patents they will each file over the next 10 years. The move is likely a way for Google to cement cooperation with Samsung, which is the largest OEM making products that run Google's Android mobile platform.

The companies did not disclose the value of the agreement but said it a covers a broad range of technologies and business areas. "We're pleased to enter into a cross-license with our partner Samsung," Allen Lo, deputy general counsel for patents at Google, said in a statement. "By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation."

The Google/Samsung agreement comes a little more than two years after Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) struck a similar, wide-ranging patent deal with Samsung, in which the companies agreed to cross-license their entire patent portfolios. Under the terms of the Microsoft deal, Samsung agreed to pay Microsoft an undisclosed royalty fee for every smartphone and tablet it sells running Android. That deal was widely seen as a blow to Google.

The agreement also comes as Rockstar, a patent consortium owned by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Sony, EMC and BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY), dropped a lawsuit against Huawei. Rockstar had sued Huawei, Google, Samsung and other Android manufacturers last fall, arguing that their products infringed on patents owned by Rockstar, which bought a trove of Nortel Networks' patents in 2011. The dropping of the lawsuit, which likely was tied to a settlement, represented a cracking in the coalition of Android OEMs Rockstar went after. The other defendants, besides Google, are Samsung, ZTE, LG Electronics, HTC, Pantech, and Asustek.

Apple's long-running patent litigation against Samsung has been widely seen as a proxy battle against Google and Android.  

In a statement, Samsung said the deal with Google will pave the way "for deeper collaboration on research and development of current and future products and technologies."

"This agreement with Google is highly significant for the technology industry," Seungho Ahn, the head of Samsung's Intellectual Property Center, said in a statement. "Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes."

In February 2013 the Wall Street Journal reported that there was increasing tension between Google and Samsung, by far the largest Android smartphone maker. The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said Google executives were concerned that Samsung has become so big and could pressure Google to alter the nature of their relationship. Both Google and Samsung downplayed any notion of tension between the companies.

In April 2013 Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt called the reports of such tension inaccurate. "Obviously we want a competitive market," he said at AllThingsD's D: Dive Into Mobile conference. However, he said "the Samsung relationship has turned out to be a defining one" and that Google is glad Samsung has embraced Android as much as it has. 

For more:
- see this Samsung post
- see this GigaOM article
- see this NYT article 
- see this Re/code article
- see this AP article

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