Google and Samsung sign global patent deal

Tim Bradshaw

Google and Samsung have bolstered their alliance through a wide-ranging patent licensing agreement, in the face of intensifying intellectual property battles with smartphone rivals such as Apple.

The technology heavyweights struck a global patent cross-licensing deal extending beyond mobile devices into a "broad range of technologies and business areas", announced on Sunday.

(Read more: Apple, Samsung agree to mediation in patent fight)

The deal, for which no financial terms were disclosed, covers unspecified intellectual property that has already been registered as well as new patents filed over the next 10 years.

The deal may shore up both companies' attempts to fend off the numerous lawsuits against mobile device makers using Google's Android operating system, which makes up more than three-quarters of all smartphones shipped.

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Samsung has been the biggest Android vendor over the past few years, with all of its flagship Galaxy smartphones using a customized version of Google's software.

Apple has argued that Samsung and others copied the iPhone's designs, resulting in litigation and counter-suits around the world that have put billions of dollars at stake in the most competitive part of the industry.

Google's attempts to bolster its intellectual-property protection included a rapid growth in the number of patents it was awarded last year, extending into new markets such as wearable technology.

(Read more: Samsung ordered to pay Apple another $290 million)

"By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation," said Allen Lo, deputy general counsel for patents at Google.

Seungho Ahn, head of Samsung's Intellectual Property Center, added: "Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from co-operating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes."

The deal comes as Apple and Samsung resume negotiations to settle their many patent disputes around the world, and ahead of another blockbuster trial in California in March, which follows the iPhone maker's victory there in 2012. The chief executives of Apple and Samsung are set to meet for mediation by mid-February, despite the failure of several such meetings in the past.

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The stakes were raised in the many-faceted patent wars in October, when the Rockstar consortium – a group including Apple, Microsoft and Sony that paid $4.5 billion for a set of Nortel patents in a 2011 auction – sued Google, Samsung and six other smartphone makers that use Android.

Rockstar's eight suits, all filed in East Texas, encompassed patents relating to Google's core search advertising business, as well as a handful of other mobile technologies such as messaging and user interface design.

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Other Android vendors hit by the legal claim included HTC and LG, but last week Huawei and Rockstar filed a joint motion to dismiss their individual case, suggesting that the two companies had agreed a settlement.

In December, Google fired a counter-complaint against Rockstar in San Jose, California. Then on New Year's eve 2013, Rockstar added Google as a co-defendant to its Texas suit against Samsung, over the Galaxy Nexus smartphone that the two firms designed in collaboration.

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Google is also engaged in separate litigation with Apple directly, through its Motorola Mobility unit, for which it paid $12.5 billion in 2012 in a deal driven in part by the veteran mobile maker's large patent collection.

Amid dozens of lawsuits over smartphones and tablets around the world, some of the technology giants involved have agreed to lay down their arms. Apple and HTC announced a 10-year licensing deal in 2012.

Last November, Samsung and Nokia extended a patent licensing agreement, which would have expired at the end of 2013, for a further five years, with the Korean electronics company agreeing to pay its Finnish rival additional compensation. In 2011, Samsung agreed a settlement with Nokia's new parent Microsoft, whereby Samsung pays the Windows maker a small fee for every Android-based device it sells.