Google and Microsoft Settle Patent Disputes

By Doug Mohney October 01, 2015

Google and Microsoft have agreed to end a group of 20 smartphone and video game lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany. The battles started in 2010 over royalty payments connected to the Microsoft Xbox game console and smartphones from Motorola Mobility; Google sold off the phone company to Lenovo in early 2014 but kept the patents.

"Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues," the companies said in a joint statement, "As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility. Separately, 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 full text of the statement is above, so exactly what the two agreed to and if any money changed hands is unknown.  However, Microsoft claimed Android infringed upon numerous patents and has collected royalties from numerous handset manufacturers.  When the company went to Motorola, it countered with demands on Xbox royalties for its use usage of Wi-Fi and video compression techniques.

Microsoft's settlement reflects upon the new philosophy CEO Satya Nadella has introduced to be more pragmatic in dealing with the rest of the world.  It has settled many of its patent law suits at large and now views both Android and Apple iOS as platforms to bring customers to its cloud as part of its "Mobile first, cloud first" strategy, rather than competition.   Former CEO Steve Ballmer would have had a stroke even considering playing well with others if it meant a non-Microsoft product being in the conversation.

The two companies are working together with Amazon, Cisco, Intel, Mozilla, and Netflix to develop an open and interoperable next generation video standard through The Alliance for Open Media. The group is an open source effort that will develop new media formats, codecs and technologies.  Its first project is a next generation royalty free video codec that will be optimized for the Web, scalable to any modern device at any bandwidth, designed with low computing needs and optimized for hardware, capable of consistent "highest-quality" real-time video delivery, and flexible for both commercial and non-commercial content.

Image via Shutterstock

And let's not forget Microsoft moving into the WebRTC world with the release of Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge, both incorporating the open standards real time communications technology along with the rewrite of Skype to use WebRTC.  Microsoft is adding support for Opus and plans to support H.264.

Settling also helps Microsoft's image, since patent fights lead to discussion about patent trolls and nobody really loves lawyers making money fighting over obscure points of intellectual property except for the lawyers racking up the billable hours.

Google's upside to the deal is that it doesn't have to be entangled in a fight over Android and its lawyers can move on to the next problem on their list.

Will Microsoft continue on its path to more of an open source/open standards company? Reports this month indicate that the company has its own version of Linux running on its Azure cloud services, suggesting that it will do whatever it needs to in order to continue to secure business in a services-focused world. If that means embracing open standards to get more customers, today's Microsoft seems to be onboard. 




Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing Editor

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