Game of phones: Samsung and Google sign patent deal

By on January 29, 2014

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.

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” which applies to both the companies’ existing patents as well as those filed over the next decade, Samsung said in a statement. However, 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 percent of mobiles are now using 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, since 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 once-off sum and on-going royalties, which Ericsson said will boost its fourth quarter sales by 4.2-billion Swedish krona (R7.2-billion).

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 patent suit against Huawei last week, indicating the two companies had agreed on a settlement.

While Google tidies up its current technologies, it also has been buying new ones. It bought UK artificial intelligence start-up DeepMind (not throat then…) for US$4-million (R43.7-million), according to tech news site Re/code. DeepMind, only founded in 2012, develops learning algorithms for e-commerce and games with one of its three founders being 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 they’re working on an intelligent robot to clean our homes.

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