Google Review

Patent War Truce? Google and Apple

apple-vs-googleIn the long running patent litigation war, has Google and Apple finally laid down their swords and shook hands?  It appears to be so.  In May of this year, they announced that they settled or dismissed all remaining patent disputes between each other in both the US and Europe.

These lawsuit are years old and were being fought in multiple jurisdictions at multiple levels.  The so-called “smartphone wars” are complex and have become closely watched by those in the technology industries. 

Why end them?

There are several reasons why many legal strategists believe the Google v Apple v Google war has finally ended.  One is due to the cost/benefit analysis. Neither part was getting any real value or relief from the courts.  The court rulings basically seemed futile as no true ground was ever gained.  Yet, both companies spent more than an estimated 30 million dollars each to pursue litigation against each other.

In a recent court case, Apple was awarded only $119 million dollars from a lawsuit against Samsung that requested more than two billion dollars in damages.  These smaller percentage awards showed both companies that the return just wasn’t going to be there.

Since “working together to reform current patent laws” was mentioned as a reason in a joint statement by both companies, another theory has quickly become that due to the ever-changing technology and cloud landscape, any type of patent “win” would be further fodder for the patent trolls, which would not benefit their own company in the long run.

It has been estimated that Google and Apple have been sued more than 200 times in the past several years by patent troll companies.  And both companies this year have asked the Supreme Court to make it easier to collect legal fees from those who initiate frivolous lawsuits.  Stopping all lawsuits is a great beginning to pushing for major reform.

Marketing Strategy?

The question has been asked – was the entire patent war, in effect, a marketing strategy?  If people are continually being told that Apple invented the slide-to-unlock smartphone feature, then any phone that has that feature would cause people to think of Apple.  By creating lawsuits that generate blaring headlines worldwide stating that “Android phones copy Apple’s iPhone features”, this link is solidified and the feature suddenly becomes valuable to consumers ready to purchase a phone.  Even though legal fees are expensive, effective multi-national advertising campaigns are also very expensive.

At this point, both Google and Apple have stated they will not start cross-licensing new inventions and developments, but many wonder if that’s not a logical step within the next five or ten years.

Is it really over?

No one really knows.  There are several things going on right now that may mean the cease-fire was simply a strategic move relating to competition with each other.  One of these is that Google is still in a heated patent-litigation war with Samsung over some of the same type of issues.

Another reason is that the companies will probably continue to build devices that copy each other’s new inventions.  Just this past week, Microsoft declared its intention to create its own version of Google Glass.  Although to date, Apple has not jumped into the market, it can’t be ruled at a different time or for a different product.