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Google, Microsoft settle long-running patent feud

The tech giants agree to dismiss about 20 patent-royalty lawsuits related to use of smartphones, Wi-Fi and Web video.

Microsoft andd Google have agreed to dismiss about 20 patent lawsuits that stretch back five years.

Microsoft and Google have agreed to end their ongoing patent dispute, dismissing all pending lawsuits against each other.

The two rival companies said Wednesday that they had agreed to dismiss about 20 lawsuits brought against each during the past five years over royalties for patents related to smartphones, Wi-Fi and Web video. Besides the billions of dollars in royalty payments at stake, the dispute was closely watched because it was expected to have broad ramifications for patent law.

The companies, which didn't disclose the terms of the settlement, also said they had "agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers." Neither company elaborated on what that collaboration entails.

The settlement appears to mark a chapter of détente between the two companies, which have fought bitterly for years over smartphone patents. The dispute highlighted a flurry of patent suits filed in recent years by tech giants hoping to extract royalties or get their competitors' devices banned from sale in the US altogether.

The dispute began in 2010 when Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft sued Motorola -- acquired by Google a year later -- alleging that several of the cell phone maker's Android devices infringed Microsoft's patents. Motorola retaliated with a countersuit, claiming infringement of 16 of its wireless and Web video patents used in Microsoft's PC and server software, Windows Mobile and Xbox products.

Microsoft, along with other prominent companies, including Apple, licenses patents from Google for their various products. Some of those patents have been deemed standard-essential patents, which means the company owning them is legally obligated to offer them on a fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) basis. Microsoft also sued Motorola, claiming that Motorola was charging excessive royalties for use of those patents.

Microsoft won its case in 2013, when US District Judge James Robart said the company should be forced to pay $1.8 million per year for royalties on the patents it uses. Motorola had demanded $4 billion per year.

Google found its way into the fight in 2011 after announcing it was acquiring Motorola Mobility. Google put its full weight behind the case, arguing that the royalty rates applied to the patents were fair. Under Google's ownership, Motorola tried to overturn the Microsoft patent ruling, but that effort failed.

Though Google sold off Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for $2.9 billion last year, it remained a part of the case because it kept Motorola's patents, including those involved in the Microsoft case.