Samsung has announced that they would be entering into a multi-year (10 year) patent sharing agreement with Google, which would effectively help cover both companies’ asses in the case of a lawsuit from one of their competitors. This patent agreement is globally binding and will also cover any patents filed during that 10 year period as well. ?We?re pleased to enter into a cross-license with our partner Samsung,? said Allen Lo, Deputy General Counsel for Patents at Google. ?By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation.?
This kind of agreement between two juggernauts is practically unprecedented purely because of the size of the two companies and their patent portfolios. Don’t forget that Google bought Motorola for $13 billion in theory because they believed that Motorola’s fundamental 3G and cellular patents would protect them or at least be deterrents against litigation.
As we all know right now, Google and Samsung are pretty closely tied together. Especially with the success of Samsung’s Android smartphones and tablets. This could further cement Samsung’s position as the #1 Android manufacturer of smartphones and tablets, however, it would also put other Android manufacturers at a disadvantage, even Motorola. Because now Motorola’s patents are accessible by Samsung and whenever Motorola patents anything Samsung could theoretically implement it without any problems at all. I believe that this agreement came as a result of all of the Android patent trolls going after Android OEMs instead of going after Google. Right now, as it stands, there are no other OEMs engaged in such agreements which would put Samsung at a competitive advantage against all of the other OEMs. Samsung is already in a fairly strong position of power and they appear to be trying to solidify that with this agreement. I’m not entirely sure how much Google stands to gain from Samsung’s patents, but clearly they saw some value, otherwise they wouldn’t have signed the agreement.
I think that this is also another sign of where Samsung is intending to go with their OS choices, as right now they are predominantly Android with shreds of Windows Phone and pipe dreams of Tizen. Sure, Tizen may have a chance as an OS, in partnership with Intel, but Samsung’s signing of this agreement clearly indicates Samsung’s commitment to Android and Google’s operating systems.
What would be nice for Google would be for other OEMs to join this patent agreement and for all of the Android manufacturers to be protected under Google’s umbrella and their partners. The problem with this, obviously, is that companies would theoretically have access to each other’s patents which could result in companies utilizing the cross-license agreement without worrying about having to pay or getting sued. I simply don’t see this happening unless these patents are applied for litigation purposes only and cannot actually be implemented in products without licensing agreements.
We also don’t know whether or not Samsung paid Google or vice versa for this agreement to occur. Samsung’s announcement was very brief and light on details. The interesting thing is that Google’s site has no mention of such an agreement, so there’s a good chance that it may actually involve Samsung paying Google money. But what point is there to speculate if we simply don’t know? What we do know is that this puts Samsung squarely in Google’s court and that it once again raises questions of Google’s own preferences towards certain OEMs and favoritism. People questioned whether or not Google would be favorable with Motorola’s products when they bought Motorola, but now with this agreement I have a feeling similar questions may be raised.
As it stands right now, there are a lot of ambiguities about this cross-licensing deal, and hopefully we’ll get more details as things continue to develop and possibly as more lawsuits are filed.