Game of Phones: Samsung and Google sign patent deal

The tech giants have become the latest to sort out their legal issues as they square up to Apple, while Google has bought a UK artificial intelligence start-up.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 28 Jan 2014

Samsung and Google have signed a global patent licensing deal, cementing their alliance and freeing the South Korean firm up to concentrate on its interminable copyright battles with bitter rival Apple.

The deal covers a ‘broad range of technologies and business areas’, and applies to both the companies’ existing patents and those filed over the next decade, Samsung said in a statement, although it didn’t specify which ‘areas’ or how much the deal was worth.

Samsung and Google were already bosom buddies before this deal. The world’s largest smartphone maker, uses Google’s Android operating system on its phones. Around 70% of mobiles now use Android.

‘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.

Apple has accused Samsung of copying iPhone features for its Galaxy smartphones. Meanwhile, the ‘Rockstar’ consortium, including Apple, Microsoft and Sony, is trying to sue Google and other mobile makers that use the Android system. Oh, and Google is in a dispute with Apple via its Motorola Mobility business. If lawsuits were actual battles the tech world would be bloodier than Game of Thrones.

Samsung and Google do indeed seem to be adhering to that war-worn adage ‘strength in numbers’. ‘Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes,’ said Samsung’s head of IP Dr. Seungho Ahn. Take that, Apple.

Samsung and Apple chief execs are due to meet for mediation by mid-February, ahead of yet another round in their billion dollar court battle in March. Unless they’re as bored of this whole palaver as we are, then the two enemies deciding to cooperate is pretty unlikely, particularly as all attempts to make the companies kiss and make up have failed in the past.

Samsung and Google aren’t the first phone companies to lay down their arms recently. Today, Ericsson, the world’s largest maker of mobile network equipment, said it had signed a multi-year licensing deal with Samsung to settle patent disputes. The smartphone maker will pay a one-off sum and ongoing royalties, which Ericsson said will boost its fourth quarter sales by 4.2bn Swedish krona (£395m).

Last year, Samsung and Nokia extended a patent licensing deal for a further five years, and Apple and HTC signed a 10 year deal in 2012. Chinese mobile maker Huawei filed a joint motion with Rockstar to dismiss its particular case last week, indicating the two companies had agreed on a settlement.

While it tidies up its current technologies, Google has also been busy buying up new ones. It bought UK artificial intelligence start-up DeepMind (not throat then…) for $400m (£242m), according to tech news site Re/code. DeepMind, which was only founded in 2012, develops learning algorithms for e-commerce and games, and one of its three founders is former teen chess prodigy Demis Hassabis.

Google is also developing a self-driving car, and has recently snapped up companies that specialise in robotics and smart home gadgets. MT hopes it’s working on an intelligent robot to clean our homes.

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