Google, Samsung Patent Agreement Strengthens Ties Between Mobile Powerhouses


Peter Crump
Staff Writer

Google and Samsung have signed on to a cross-licensing agreement that will cover their current patents as well as future patents filed in the next 10 years. The deal comes amid an ongoing legal dispute between Samsung and Apple, with the latter suing the former in 2011 for patent infringement. It appears then that the agreement aims to strengthen the existing ties between Google and Samsung against stiff competition from Apple.

The companies have yet to disclose any financial information regarding the deal, nor was it specified if the deal was limited only to the Android market, Google’s operating system that is frequently featured in Samsung products. However, the agreement will not transfer ownership of the patents between the companies, so Samsung would not be able to use Google’s patents against Apple or another party in any ongoing lawsuit, according to the Wall Street Journal. While the specific stipulations are still in the dark, Allen Lo, deputy general counsel for patents at Google, explains, “By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation,” according to the New York Times.

Similar sentiments were mirrored by the head of Samsung’s Intellectual Property Center, Seugho Ahn, quoted by CNET saying, “Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes.”

With much of the agreement still not known, the question remains as to whether or not the deal was partly, if not primarily motivated by the ongoing Apple/Samsung lawsuit. Apple originally filed suit against Samsung in April of 2011 for copying the design of its products according to CNET. Samsung countersued two months later over patent infringement, and the initial trial began in August of 2012 with the jury ruling in Apple’s favor and awarding them $1 billion. Soon after, however, Judge Lucy Koh, the presider of the case, called a retrial to recalculate some of the damages included in the lawsuit. The new trial is scheduled for March of this year.

In the meantime, Koh urged both Apple and Samsung representatives to try and reach a settlement outside of court before the trial is set to begin. Both companies have tried out of court settlements in the past; however, no attempts have been successful. Still, CNET reports that chief executives of both Samsung and Apple, along with a number of lawyers, have agreed to meet with a mediator to resolve the ongoing dispute. The mediation is scheduled for Feb. 19, and in the meantime, the dispute continues into its fourth year.

Even though these litigations have hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, they would have little financial impact on Apple and Samsung, both of which generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, according to CNET. However, the new alliance between Google and Samsung may prove to be troubling for Apple. According to the New York Times, Google’s Android operating system is used in 81 percent of smartphones around the globe, most notably in Samsung products, while Apple’s iOS system is used only in 13 percent of smartphones worldwide.

Still, there have been recent rumors that either Google or Samsung would end their existing relationship and develop their own respective hardware and software, similar to Apple’s iPhone and iOS. The New York Times reports that Samsung has been developing its own mobile operating system, Tizen, for some time now, though it recently has encountered some financial setbacks. However, this patent agreement between Samsung and Google appears to put any plans to separate the mobile hegemony on the back burner, at least for now.