Apple, Google call truce in smartphone patent war

Technology giants cease long-running litigation over smartphone systems and agree to work together on patent reform

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 11:04am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 May, 2014, 3:32am

Apple and Google have declared a ceasefire in their intellectual property wars.

The two Silicon Valley technology giants said they are dropping lawsuits against one another and will work together to reform patent law.

The suits to be dismissed involve patent disputes regarding Google's Motorola Mobility handset unit. The deal does not include Apple's patent battles with Samsung Electronics, which uses Google's Android software for mobile devices.

"This could signal a new strategy on Apple's part to focus its litigation efforts even more squarely on Samsung, which is by far the largest Android phone manufacturer," said Brian Love, a Santa Clara University School of Law professor.

The agreement signals a de-escalation in hostilities between two companies that have filed about 20 lawsuits against each other in the US and Europe and compete fiercely on many technology fronts.

"Apple and Google have agreed to dismiss all the current lawsuits that exist directly between the two companies," they said in a joint statement. "Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform. The agreement does not include a cross licence."

The announcement comes as the two companies, due to court rulings, were spending tens of millions of dollars in legal fees over an ever-shrinking list of possible rewards.

Google was unable to win court orders to limit Apple sales and had been limited in its ability to demand royalties.

Google agreed in January to sell Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for US$2.91 billion after buying it for more than US$12 billion in 2012. As part of the deal, Google is keeping the majority of Motorola's patents.

"It's largely symbolic," Michael Risch, a law professor at Villanova University, said of the joint statement. "Motorola isn't as big of a competitor anymore," he said, adding that the cooperation shows Apple is not as concerned about the company. "When they decide to drop everything with Samsung, then we'll be talking."

Google inherited the cases when it bought Motorola Mobility to obtain a trove of about 17,000 patents and applications.