Apple and Google have made friends after agreeing to work together on patent reforms and settle various suits over smartphones, ending one of the most widely discussed legal wrangles the rapidly advancing technology world has ever seen. In a media statement on Friday, the two giants said the smartphone technology settlement leaves out the possible cross-licensing of company patents. This came about from what Android may have done to take a bite out of Apple, and whatever Apple’s iOS may have done to infringe on the patents Google brought to the party when it bought Motorola Mobility. Neither does it affect the Apple vs Samsung cases.
Motorola Mobility was bought in 2012 by Google for $12.5 billion, which then sold its handset section to the Chinese smartphone maker Lenovo, keeping most of the patents that came under scrutiny in this case. The two companies, after telling a federal appeals court in Washington that their cases against one another should be dismissed, issued a joint media statement in which they said they had agreed to dismiss all of the lawsuits currently in existence between them. They also agreed to work together on some areas of patent reform.
Motorola charged Apple with patent infringements, one of the most important of which was how smartphones work on 3G networks. For its part, Apple believed Motorola had violated smartphone feature patents but did not disclose how many. The case was mostly one of Apple’s iOS operating system for iPhones directly competing against Google’s Android. Apple felt that Google and Android were copies of its own system and so infringed copyright laws. Now Apple and Google have suspended animosities.
In recent years the technology world has seen myriad cases of litigation involving the ability of companies to protect their technological developments. This time the case was settled amicably, though more showdowns could be on the way in the fast-moving and competitive environment in which smartphones have become a key resource for those who want to stay connected.
As it is, Samsung and Apple saw a court issue payment with regards to patent issues earlier this year, showing that others are ready to act against competitors if they believe their patent rights are being threatened. But, as the Apple vs Motorola case shows, some may also be more willing to seek solutions to the intricacies of patent laws and the development of their products, even though they largely want to remain independent design-wise, and feel threatened by infringements.
Although the battle between Google and what was once the largest adopter of its Android mobile software was partly to prevent expansion of the free, rival operating system, it was unable to slow Android’s rapid march and it is now installed on up to 80 percent of the new phones sold each year.
After being consolidated in a federal court, Judge Richard Posner dismissed the suit just before the trial in 2012, because he believed neither company could prove its case. However, Apple was awarded a billion dollars in damages against Samsung, its biggest win over Android thus far. The verdict is on appeal and remains unaffected by Friday’s agreement with Motorola.
Only six months ago, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, in insightful style, called on Samsung, Apple and Google to abandon their differences and start working together for the good of all. He said squabbling between tech firms was strangling innovation and that being able to buy licences for desirable features at reasonable prices was the answer.
Wozniak said he could see good things on Samsungs that he wished were on his iPhones, and that by cross-licensing and sharing the good technology all the makers would improve their technology. This after Wozniak found that Siri, Apple’s voice recognition software, was not as accurate as Google’s Android speech detection equivalent. Today “Woz” can be proud of Apple and Google.
By Keith Allen