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Business News/ Tech-news / News/  Google, Microsoft resolve global patent feud over smartphones, Xbox
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Google, Microsoft resolve global patent feud over smartphones, Xbox

Google, Microsoft to drop about 20 lawsuits in US and Germany

Google’s former Motorola Mobility unit had been demanding royalties on the Xbox video-gaming system, and Microsoft had sought to block Motorola mobile phones from using certain features. Photo: Reuters Premium
Google’s former Motorola Mobility unit had been demanding royalties on the Xbox video-gaming system, and Microsoft had sought to block Motorola mobile phones from using certain features. Photo: Reuters

Washington: Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have agreed to end their long-running patent feud over smartphones and video game systems, dropping about 20 lawsuits in the US and Germany.

The two companies, which didn’t disclose financial terms, have been litigating over technology innovations for five years. Google’s former Motorola Mobility unit had been demanding royalties on the Xbox video-gaming system, and Microsoft had sought to block Motorola mobile phones from using certain features.

The companies pledged in a statement to work together in other ways related to intellectual property, including development of a royalty-free, video-compression technology to speed downloads, in an initiative that also involves Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc. They will also lobby for specific rules on a unified patent system throughout Europe.

“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," the technology giants said in a joint statement.

The agreement marks a new amity between Microsoft and one of its top erstwhile enemies, and reflects a different tone set by chief executive officer Satya Nadella. On 10 August, when Sundar Pichai was named CEO of Google, Nadella tweeted congratulations to him, calling the promotion “well deserved."

Android suit

The companies have been at odds since Microsoft claimed in 2010 that Google’s Android operating system for mobile devices had incorporated its technology without paying royalties. Among the lawsuits Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft filed that year was one against Motorola Inc., then a standalone company. It was a case that Google later inherited as part of its purchase of Motorola Mobility.

Microsoft claimed that Motorola was demanding the equivalent of $4 billion a year in royalties on the Xbox and accused it of backing away from pledges to fairly license patents on fundamental technologies. An appeals court in July upheld a finding that Motorola breached that agreement.

The case against Motorola involved in part the use of a popular feature called ActiveSync that lets users coordinate the calendars on their phones and desktop computers. Microsoft obtained an order blocking the feature on Motorola phones imported into the US though it later said that US customs officials never enforced it.

The agreement to be allies when it comes to patents only goes so far. Google, based in Mountain View, California, is pushing new products to compete with Microsoft, including a tablet computer designed for business customers to compete with Microsoft’s SurfacePro. Microsoft’s Bing search engine still strives to get a bigger market share from Google, the world’s largest Internet search service.

When it comes to patent policy, the companies agree they want to make it harder for patent-licensing firms that don’t make products and are derided as “trolls." The European Union is setting up an EU-wide patent court and the two companies are lobbying to ensure those types of lawsuits don’t become as prevalent in Europe as they are in the US. Bloomberg

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Published: 01 Oct 2015, 09:03 AM IST
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