It seems that by now most people are pretty sick of hearing about patent trolling — which is, for those that don’t know, the practice of enforcing patent rights against supposed infringers in order to collect licensing fees. To be fair, the reasons many companies feel compelled to protect their patents or intellectual property can be varied and the whole issue actually has a lot more subtlety than most would guess.
Still, it would be nice if more tech companies could focus more on creating better products and less on suing each other. As such, the news that Cisco (News - Alert) and Google have entered into a long-term patent cross-licensing agreement that covers a broad range of products and technologies is quite welcome.
Put simply, the agreement allows each company to effectively enhance their respective patent portfolios through licensed access to the other’s portfolio. More importantly, it helps reduce the risk of litigation between the two in the future. Indeed, it is the latter reason that seems to be the key motivation for the cross-licensing agreement.
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This might have something to do with the fact that both Google (News - Alert) and Cisco are members of the Coalition for Patent Fairness, an advocacy group that aims to prevent abuses by patent trolls. There’s also the fact that both companies are well acquainted with the current litigious nature of the technology industry.
For Cisco’s part, the company’s general counsel, Mark Chandler, recently pledge not to sell patents to patent assertion entities in order to encourage innovation in the industry. Google, meanwhile, has been at the receiving end of an Android lawsuit or two in the years since the mobile operating system’s release. Most people, though, are probably better acquainted with the world-spanning series of Samsung-Apple (News - Alert) patent disputes — a battle that is still ongoing.
"In today's overly-litigious environment, cross-licensing is an effective way for technology companies to work together and help prevent unnecessary patent lawsuits," said Dan Lang, vice president of Intellectual Property at Cisco, in a statement. "This agreement is an important step in promoting innovation and assuring freedom of operation."