In a major breakthrough in the bitter and long-running war between Apple and Google over smartphone patents, the two companies announced on Friday that they will dismiss all current lawsuits against each other.
In a joint statement, the companies also said they will try to work together to reform the patent system:
Apple and Google have agreed to dismiss all the current lawsuits that exist directly between the two companies. Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform. The agreement does not include a cross license.
A person familiar with the litigation said the truce will end about 20 lawsuits in the United States and Germany, including proceedings before the U.S. International Trade Commission. The person confirmed the statement’s reference to “directly between the companies” meant that the agreement would not immediately affect related patent litigation between Apple and Samsung, or lawsuits involving the Apple-backed patent troll Rockstar.
The person described the process as Apple and Google “putting down their guns.”
Apple and Google also filed a court notice (embedded below) this week in a closely-watched patent appeals case, concerning Google-owned Motorola Mobility, that stated they were dismissing the case.
The bitter patent fight has its roots in Apple’s late CEO, Steve Jobs, declaring in early 2010 that he would start “thermonuclear war” in retaliation for Google’s launch of the Android operating system. Since then, the two companies have sued each other directly, and through proxies, in courtrooms around the world.
The patent fights, which regularly made front-page headlines, have resulted in hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars in legal cost to each side, but have failed to make a material difference in the smartphone market.
The legal brouhaha has, however, led to renewed debates over the role of patents in promoting innovation and led to doubts over the efficacy of the U.S. patent system in the first place, with one famous judge declaring the patent system “dysfunctional.”
Meanwhile, the cascade of patent litigation has also called attention to the problem of so-called patent trolls, which amass old patents in order to arm shell companies that demand licenses from a wide variety of small and large companies — a practice many have likened to extortion.
The arrangement between Apple and Google will also allow the parties to better work together to promote patent reform litigation currently before Congress, the source familiar with the matter said. A bill called the Innovation Act, which would curtain patent trolling, sailed through the House of Representatives in December with the support of President Obama, but is currently being stalled by Democrats in the Senate.
Here’s the filing, first spotted by Reuters.
Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:
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