Apple and Google Agree to Settle Smartphone Patent Litigation

Apple and Google have agreed to drop perhaps the highest-profile lawsuit in high-tech, ending litigation over smartphone patents.

Google and Apple informed a federal appeals court in Washington that their cases against each other should be dismissed, according to filings on Friday.  Photo: Akif Sahin/Flickr

Google and Apple informed a federal appeals court in Washington that their cases against each other should be dismissed, according to filings on Friday. Photo: Akif Sahin/Flickr

Apple and Google have agreed to settle all outstanding litigation between them in relation to smartphones, what stands as a major breakthrough for the two technology giants.

“Apple and Google have agreed to dismiss all the current lawsuits that exist directly between the two companies,” the tech giants said in a joint statement on Friday. The two firms added that they “have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform.”

Google and Apple informed a federal appeals court in Washington that their cases against each other should be dismissed, according to filings on Friday.  Previously, the companies had filed dozens of lawsuits against each other, each claiming that the rival had infringed patents of smartphone concept and production. Steve Jobs, Apple’s late co-founder, even went so far at one stage as to refer to Android as a “stolen product.”

A person familiar with the litigation said the truce will end about 20 lawsuits in the United States and Germany, including proceedings before the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The person confirmed the statement’s reference to “directly between the companies” meant that the agreement would not immediately affect related patent litigation between Apple and Samsung, or lawsuits involving the Apple-backed patent troll Rockstar.

Last month a federal judge in Chicago dismissed the allegation on the infringed smartphone technology patents from each company’s experts on damages.  Motorola Mobility accused Apple of infringing three patents related to industrywide standards for how data is transmitted over phone and Wi-Fi networks. The Federal Circuit affirmed that Apple didn’t infringe two of those patents, writes Bloomberg.

Circuit Judge Richard Posner, who normally presides on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, canceled a trial after ruling the damages testimony from both sides inadmissible. Even if either company won, they wouldn’t be entitled to an order blocking sales of the other company’s products, he said.

Apple’s biggest victory against Android came against Samsung, where U.S. juries have awarded Apple more than $1 billion in damages. Those verdicts are on appeal, and despite years of court challenges to Android, Apple has not been able to win a crippling sales injunction.

However, patent expert Florian Mueller says the deal could mean an end to that dispute is also in sight.

“At first sight one would assume that this Apple-Google agreement makes a near-term Apple-Samsung settlement much more likely, but this depends on whether Apple’s decision-makers have fully realized just how non-thermonuclear their patent portfolio is,” he wrote.

He also believes the settlement was due to both sides realizing they were unlikely to win outright.

He continued: “The parties have entered into a second-class settlement from a position of mutual weakness. They had to recognize that under the procedural circumstances their patents were not strong enough to give either party decisive leverage over the other, at least not anytime soon.”

Google acquired Motorola Mobility in 2012 for $12.5 billion, and this year announced it was selling Motorola Mobility’s handset business to Lenovo, while keeping the vast majority of the patents, reports Reuters.

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