Today, Samsung and Google announced that the two companies signed patent cross-licensing agreements. The deal covers both existing patents and patents filed over the next 10 years, though the companies didn’t say how all encompassing the agreement was. Recode, which appears to have been briefed on the situation, reports that the patents cover more than just mobile devices.
Samsung’s press release has a few choice quotes from each party, claiming the deal is a victory of innovation over litigation. Google’s Deputy General Counsel for Patents Allen Lo said “We’re pleased to enter into a cross-license with our partner Samsung. By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation.” Dr. Seungho Ahn, the Head of Samsung’s Intellectual Property Center, chimed in with “This agreement with Google is highly significant for the technology industry. Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes.”
Both companies are now a little stronger against Apple, which has been waging a “thermonuclear” patent war against everything that runs Android for some time now. Still, Google and Samsung are in a bit of an awkward position with the deal. Google makes the Android operating system that serves as a core for all of Samsung’s Galaxy phones, but Google also competes with Samsung directly via Motorola and the Nexus devices. Plus, Google dictates Android compatibility terms to Samsung. In return, Samsung moves a ton of Android devices, but the company skins Android and tries to replace Google services with its own at every opportunity. That’s all while Samsung quietly continues working on Tizen, its own mobile OS.
This is a great move for the companies’ Android cooperation, but what about everything else? Can Samsung use whatever patented Android ideas they want in Tizen? How much access do Motorola and the Nexus line have to Samsung device patents? Android is one spot where the companies cooperate, but there are far more areas where these two overlap.