Microsoft and Google End Their Patent Rivalry

The companies drop several lawsuits affecting the Android mobile operating system and Microsoft's Xbox console.

Google, Microsoft lawsuits

Microsoft and Google have buried the hatchet.

The technology giants have settled the long simmering dispute over patents concerning mobile phones and Microsoft's Xbox console, Bloomberg reported yesterday. As part of the agreement, the companies have dropped approximately 20 lawsuits in the United States and Germany.

"Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues," said the companies in a joint statement sent to eWEEK. "As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility."

The terms of the deal, monetary or otherwise, have not been disclosed. The companies did however hint at a more amicable relationship concerning intellectual property going forward.

"Separately, 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," stated the companies.

Google's Android mobile operating system became a legal lightning rod since Microsoft sued Motorola in October 2010 claiming that the handset maker's Android smartphones violated Microsoft's patents.

"The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola's Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience," said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Microsoft Intellectual Property and Licensing, in a statement at the time. That functionality in question included "synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power."

Prior to filing the suit, Microsoft had inked an IP licensing deal for HTC to use Microsoft's patented technology in its Android smartphones. In the years since, Microsoft has inked similar deals with Nikon, Foxconn, Acer and most notably Samsung, the leading Android smartphone maker.

Last year, the deal between Microsoft and Samsung turned sour. Seeking the royalties Microsoft claimed it was owed, the Redmond, Wash., software maker sued Samsung last year. According to court documents, Samsung had paid Microsoft $1 billion in 2013 as part of their 2011 licensing agreement.

Google, too, has been known to go on the offensive.

In 2011, the company acquired Motorola for $12.4 billion. "Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies," wrote Larry Page, then-CEO of Google, in a blog post at the time.

Later, in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), it was revealed that Motorola's patents alone were worth about $5.5 billion. (Google would go on to sell Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for $2.91 billion in 2014.)

And in late 2013, Google filed suit in California against the Rockstar patent-holding consortium owned by Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, EMC, Ericsson and Sony. Rockstar was formed after the group placed a winning bid of $4.5 billion for bankrupt Nortel Networks' portfolio of 6,000 patents in 2011.

The complaint noted that Rockstar "is admittedly a 'patent licensing business' that produces no products, and instead exists solely to assert its patents." The group's legal tactics had "placed a cloud on Google's Android platform," alleged Google.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...