Microsoft and Google bury the patent hatchet

Microsoft and Google announced that the two companies are dropping all patent litigation against one another. The agreement settles 18 cases pending between Microsoft and Google in the US and Germany.

Ted S. Warren/Reuters
Microsoft and Google agreed to drop all patent litigation against one another, the tech companies announced on Thursday. Here, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (L) and executive VP Harry Shum (C) demonstrate Windows devices to Chinese president Xi Jinping on September 23, 2015 in Redmond, Washington.

The “global smartphone wars” may finally be coming to an end.

Microsoft and Google announced on Thursday that the two companies will bury all patent infringement cases pending against one another, including those related to smartphones, Windows software, and Microsoft’s Xbox game consoles. All told, the truce settles 18 cases that, until Thursday, were winding their way through the court systems in the US and Germany.

“Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers,” the tech giants said in a jointly-issued press statement.

The companies compete directly with one another with a number of products, including search engines (Google and Bing) and tablets (Google’s new Pixel C and Microsoft’s Surface), but legal collaboration could benefit both companies if they’re able to avoid expensive lawsuits against each other. Google and Microsoft said they’re planning to work together on technology such as a royalty-free method of delivering video content over the Internet.

The agreement lays to rest all 18 cases currently pending between Google and Microsoft, but does not rule out any future lawsuits for patent infringement, a Microsoft spokesperson told Reuters. Neither company announced whether payments are being exchanged as part of the agreement to settle the current litigation.

The set of patent disputes being laid to rest on Thursday began in 2010, when Microsoft tried to license some of Motorola’s wireless and video technology to use in the Xbox. Motorola was obligated to offer those licenses at a reasonable cost but failed to do so, Microsoft said later. When Google acquired Motorola in 2012, it inherited the company’s patent portfolio – and the lawsuit. Earlier this summer, a US appeals court found that the licensing rate Microsoft paid to use those patents was indeed reasonable.

The agreement between Google and Microsoft follows in the footsteps of last year’s deal between Samsung and Apple, which stated that the two companies would drop all cases against one another that were taking place outside of the US. Prior to the agreement, Samsung and Apple spent millions of dollars litigating against one another over smartphone patents governing functions such as data synchronization and the “slide-to-unlock” feature. Those lawsuits began prior to 2012, when an American jury found that Samsung phones looked too similar to iPhones and unfairly lifted a number of design features such as rounded icons and edge-to-edge glass screens.

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