Did you know that, up until yesterday, Microsoft and Google were involved in at least 20 different patent lawsuits against each other? Well they were. And now they're not.
According to multiple news organizations including the BBC, Endgaget, and Bloomberg Business, Google and Microsoft have come to an agreement that will end their current conflicts over patents and allow them to work together on technology development. The agreement, described in a brief joint statement made by the two companies, ends lawsuits that were currently pending in the United States and Germany.
The lawsuits began in 2010, but became much more heated due to Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility in 2011 for more than $12 billion. The purchase got Google a large number of mobile phone and information network patents, over which they sued Microsoft for infringement. Microsoft later sued Google over text messaging methods and Motorola's failure to license video compression and wireless tech from Microsoft.
It says something about the speed of change in the technology industry that companies that were fighting tooth and nail over intellectual property just five years ago now find the landscape changed enough that such lawsuits are not in their or anyone else's interests. Where, in 2010, Microsoft was still jockeying for position as the dominant force in desktop and trying to get people to buy its phones, it now just wants its apps and software on as many devices as possible, and can best do this via cooperation.
Additionally, Google is in a more dominant position than it was previously, and can better compete via open source software and cooperation against more proprietary-focused companies like Apple and Facebook.
The two tech giants, along with several other companies, have already been working together on a few things, like a universal video format, as we have previously reported. It may be that a lot of these large tech companies are looking for common ground on which they can agree to compete while not wasting their time bickering over that common ground. Like race car drives all agreeing to use the same track for a race, it's logical that they also agree to keep the track in great condition.
These lawsuits were originally undertaken in an atmosphere of "patent trolling," where companies large and small would acquire the rights to software patents that were often so vague that they allowed the owner to sue other companies for specious claims of infringement. The lawsuits are often baseless, and are used to try to get another company to pay to settle or license a patent rather than actually protect the patent holder's rights.
The growing number of patent sharing agreements between companies may be a sign that the age of patent trolling is coming to an end, or at least on a downward trajectory.
This deal follows Samsung and Apple similarly burying the hatchet over a long-term patent disputes that had roiled courts in Europe for years.