Love, Not War: Microsoft & Google End Patent Suits
Firms pledge patent-related cooperation in the future.
Yesterday Google and Microsoft agreed to dismiss multiple patent lawsuits against one another. While the settlement terms were not disclosed, the agreement ends as many as 20 cases in the US and Europe that touch a range of technologies including mobile, video and gaming.
Most provocatively Microsoft and Google say they will “collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future.” Bloomberg reported this cooperation will include developing a “royalty-free, video-compression technology to speed downloads, in an initiative that also involves Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc. They will also lobby for specific rules on a unified patent system throughout Europe.”
The formal press statement issued by the companies said:
Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues. As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility. Separately, Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers.
The patent detente may also be related to the changing of the guard at Google and Microsoft, with two new CEOs in place: Sundar Pichai at Google and Satya Nadella at Microsoft. The latter congratulated Pichai when his appointment was announced earlier this year.
Many of the cases were tied to patents owned by Motorola Mobility, which Google bought in part to protect itself and Android OEMs from litigation by Apple. Google subsequently sold Motorola to Lenovo for roughly $3 billion in January of last year. However it retained most of the company’s patent portfolio.
Microsoft has been successful in signing (or winning) patent licensing agreements with most major Android manufacturers and probably earns more from licensing fees than it does from direct sales of its own Windows Phones. However it’s also possible that Google negotiated an end to those licensing fees with this agreement.
After years of bitter patent suits between Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Nokia and others, there appears to be an environment of greater negotiation and cooperation now prevailing. Last year Apple and Samsung settled their non-US patent cases.