Apple, Google Settle Court Battles Over Smartphone Patents

The four-year-old legal fight over smartphone patents between Apple and Google ends with both sides saying they will "work together in some areas of patent reform."

Apple and Google legal settlement

Apple and Google's former Motorola Mobility unit have ended their ongoing legal battles with each over smartphone patents by filing a joint motion with a U.S. District Court of Appeals to dismiss their lawsuits against each other.

The motion was filed May 16 by the companies, which had sued each other over smartphone patents dating back to 2010. Now, the two sides have dropped their lawsuits against each other, according to a story by Reuters.

In a joint statement provided to eWEEK by an Apple spokesperson, the two companies said they "have agreed to dismiss all the current lawsuits that exist directly between the two companies. Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform."

The agreement between Apple and Google "does not include a cross license" for their patents, the statement continued.

Neither Google nor Apple commented further about the dropping of the lawsuits when asked by eWEEK in an email inquiry.

The legal fight over smartphone patents between the two companies has been testy and vocal.

In November 2010, Apple sued Motorola for infringing on patents related to multi-touch and other screen-related technologies. In October 2010, Motorola sued Apple, accusing it of infringing on technologies used in the Apple iPhone, iPad, iTouch and some Mac computers.

Motorola Mobility's extensive patent portfolio was said to be Google's No. 1 reason for acquiring the phone maker back in May 2012, when Google paid $12.5 billion for the company. The Apple lawsuits against Motorola were taken on by Google after it bought Motorola Mobility.

The legal fight between Apple and Motorola has been volatile for some time. In November 2012, Apple's lawsuit over Google patents was thrown out by a federal judge hours before the trial was set to get under way. That dismissal came after Apple said it would not abide by the court's ruling if a royalty rate to Google of more than $1 per phone would be ordered by the court. The judge tossed the case due to what she felt was Apple's apparent disregard for the court's authority.

On October 2012, Google Motorola dropped one lawsuit it had filed against Apple that claimed that the iPhone maker had infringed on seven patents related to smartphone features. That patent-infringement lawsuit filed by Google Motorola in August before the U.S. International Trade Commission was dropped without comment.

The dropped case listed seven patents held by Motorola that alleged infringement by Apple in products such as the iPad, the iPhone and various Mac computers, including the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. One of the patents describes technology "that allows an audible user input to be converted into a text string," which would appear to describe Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant feature introduced with the Apple iPhone 4S.

In June 2012, another U.S. District Court judge dismissed an Apple patent infringement lawsuit against Motorola after lashing some of Apple's key legal arguments, including claimed irreparable damage from continued infringements of its patents by Motorola. The main problem with Apple's arguments, the judge wrote, was that Apple couldn't at the time provide any reasonable damage figure for the alleged infringements.

Google later sold its Motorola Mobility unit to Lenovo in January 2014 for $2.91 billion less than two years after its May 2012 acquisition. The move got Google out of the handset business so it can focus on Android and more.