patent battle over for apple google
May 18, 2014

Lawsuits Dropped As Part Of Settlement Between Apple And Google

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Apple and Google have agreed to drop all patent-related lawsuits against one another as part of a settlement announced via joint statement on Friday, bringing an end to litigation that began when Motorola Mobility first accused the iPhone manufacturer of patent infringement in 2010.

Apple countersued, and Google became involved in the conflict when it purchased Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012, partially to acquire thousands of patents it could use to defend its Android mobile-operating system from intellectual property claims from its rival, according to Daisuke Wakabayashi and Rolfe Winkler of the Wall Street Journal.

Prior to Friday’s settlement, Google and Apple were involved in approximately 20 lawsuits against each other in both the US and Germany, added Wakabayashi and Winkler. The agreement involves only Apple’s patent litigation with Motorola and does not impact separate lawsuits filed against Samsung, the largest maker of Android phones in the world. Despite being mentioned frequently in those cases, Google is not formally involved in any of them.

While Google agreed to sell Motorola’s devices to Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo for nearly $3 billion earlier this year, the patents were not involved in that deal. In Friday’s statement, Apple and Google said that the settlement does not include an agreement to cross-license their respective patents, but the two firms said that they will be working together in some regions of patent reform, according to Reuters reporter Dan Levine.

“The world of smartphone software is divided largely between Google's Android and Apple's iOS operating systems,” said Wakabayashi and Winkler. “Apple has attacked Google by suing phone makers that use Android but hasn't gone after Google directly. For its part, Google may have been encouraged to settle with Apple after regulators in the US and Europe criticized the company for the legal strategy it employed with Motorola's patents.”

“Motorola had pursued injunctions against Apple products based on patents that regulators said it was required to license to Apple,” they added. “Apple's incentive to keep fighting the Motorola suit may have been diminished by the pending sale to Lenovo. Despite the detente, Google still faces patent litigation from a company that is partially owned by Apple called the Rockstar Consortium.”

The Rockstar Consortium was formed by Apple, BlackBerry, Ericsson, Microsoft and Sony after they emerged victorious over Google in a bidding war for Nortel Networks’ portfolio of patents in 2011, the Wall Street Journal explained. Last November, the consortium launched a series of lawsuits against Google and Android device manufacturers over seven patents over an advertising-related patent formerly owned by Nortel.

According to Forbes contributor Tim Worstall, Friday’s settlement is “evidence that while horribly expensive and tortuous, the patent system does actually work… we artificially create intellectual property rights, in patents and copyrights, so that people who come up with nifty ideas are able to get paid for coming up with nifty ideas.”

“If people see people getting paid lots of money for having had nifty ideas then perhaps they will go and spend some or all of their time trying to have nifty ideas: to the long term benefit of all of us as technological progress hurtles forward,” he added. “For such a system to work we need the system to protect strong and original ideas, to allow some but not all derivative ideas and not to protect ideas that aren’t original.”

While Worstall said that the US patent system is sometimes criticized because it doesn’t always appear that it manages to accomplish all of these goals, the settlement between Apple and Google inspires hope that the system in place actually works fairly well sometimes. Neither party had a patent that the other was unable to work around, leaving the endgame to be what experts always felt it would be: a joint agreement to stop pursuing legal action.