In a move that could have big implications for a mobile device industry consumed by patent litigation, Google and Samsung on Sunday announced they have entered into a ten-year cross-licensing agreement involving their respective patent portfolios.
The two companies, which each control tens of thousands of patents, said in a statement that the deal will further their “long-term cooperative partnership” and that the patents cover a broad range of technologies and business areas.
“By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation,” said Allen Lo, Google’s Deputy General Counsel for Patents in the statement.
The agreement comes more than two years after Samsung signed a patent cross-license deal with Microsoft that was described at the time as a blow to Google. While the Korean company and Google have long been allies as a result of their use of the Android operating system, the two companies have not had a formal intellectual property deal until now.
Lo’s comment about “innovation” may be seen as a rebuke to Apple, Microsoft and other companies that employ a controversial technique known as “privateering” in which they arm shell companies with old patents. The shell companies, which are largely immune from counter-suits because they have no assets, then set about demanding money from productive companies — the result has been a growing train-wreck of lawsuits drawing in a wide swath of industries.
“Privateering lets a company split its patent portfolio into smaller sub-portfolios “stacked” on each other, increasing the number of entities a firm must negotiate with and multiplying licensing costs. This behavior unfairly raises competitors’ costs, ultimately driving up prices for consumers,” said a Google spokesperson in response to an email question.
The statement announcing the deal did not specify how many patents are involved, but noted that “the agreement covers the two companies’ existing patents as well as those filed over the next 10 years.”
The Google-Samsung deal also comes at a time when they have been on the losing end of a series of lawsuits with Apple over the rights to smartphone technology.