LG Electronics and Google have signed a 10-year patent cross-licensing agreement, and arrangement that LG said in an announcement covers “a broad range of [current and future] products and technologies.”
Google signed a similar agreement with Samsung at the start of the year. In both cases, the agreements allow the parties involved to develop and introduce new products with less worry about patent infringement disputes, particularly by averting the kind of costly lawsuits that have become common in the mobile industry, mostly notably between Apple and Samsung.
“By working together on cross-licenses like this, companies can focus on bringing great products and services to consumers around the world,” Allen Lo, Google’s deputy general counsel for patents, said in a prepared statement.
LG’s takeaway from the deal includes recognition of a stronger position in its market battle with Samsung, while Google builds a stronger relationship with one of the major manufacturers in the Android mobile device market. LG already was a significant Android ally in the smartphone market.
The deal allows LG to use mobile and software patents for an undisclosed royalty fee, while Google gets access to technologies for wearables. Another deal was made to team up on the development of Google’s planned wearable platform and porting to LG devices.
This isn’t LG’s first emerging technologies deal with Google. It has partnered with Google’s Nest and several software application vendors to enter the Internet of things arena with home appliances.
Taken together, one gets a sense that Google is pre-positioning for a major thrust into the emerging wearable and non-mobile consumer markets, and the patent agreement feeds this.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, suggests the issue is more about patent litigation than any other issue. “Mobile patents have kept a lot of lawyers busy, with Microsoft and Apple protecting their IP aggressively. My sense is that this is Google’s way of buffering LG against future litigation, especially as wearables are rolled out,” Enderle said.
“Any potential lawsuit now would involve Google as the 300-pound gorilla in the corner, so it should damp down legal activity and build LG’s confidence to proceed,” he said.
The seemingly endless cycles of lawsuits between Samsung and Apple, Google and Apple, and Microsoft and Samsung appeared to cool off considerably in the middle of 2014 with a series of settlements.
However, unless the apparent spirit of conciliation continues, the wearables market, as a component of the Internet of things, could trigger another round of patent litigation, as device makers act to defend their markets.