Google, Samsung strike patent cross-licensing deal

The two companies are pretty vague about the terms but take veiled shots at Apple.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 and other popular handsets run Google's Android operating system. Josh Miller/CNET
Google and Samsung on Sunday unveiled a broad, long-term cross-licensing deal that will cover their existing patents as well as those filed over the next 10 years.

The two companies provided essentially no details about the terms of the deal or what patents and technologies its covers, only saying that it's "mutually beneficial." However, they did take veiled shots at Apple, stressing how two big companies can work together to avoid litigation.

"Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes," Seungho Ahn, the head of Samsung's Intellectual Property Center, said in a press release.

Allen Lo, deputy general counsel for patents at Google, echoed Ahn's comments, saying that "by working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation."

Apple and Samsung have been embroiled in litigation for several years, and Apple also has sued other Android handset makers. In the case of Samsung, Apple accused the company of copying patents such as its technology for making a screen bounce back when you reach the bottom. Apple has been victorious over Samsung in US courts so far, and the next case, which covers gadgets such as the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5, goes to trial March 31.

The two companies have been ordered to hold talks by February 19 to try to resolve their issues. However, a settlement has seemed unlikely. In November, before jury election began in a separate patent infringement lawsuit Apple filed against Samsung, US District Court Judge Lucy Koh told both parties that she would like them to try to reach a settlement and that she would prefer the companies' CEOs participate in the talks. She prefaced the request by saying to the attorneys for Apple and Samsung that "you don't have to laugh at me, but even my chambers laughs at me when I mention settlement."

Meanwhile, Google and Samsung have been close partners over the years. Samsung's smartphone success has come from using Google's Android open-source operating system. There have been reports of tension between the two companies, but both are reliant on each other to keep their mobile momentum going. It's likely that many of the patents involved in the cross-licensing deal relate to mobile technology.

 

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