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Samsung, Google sign global patent license agreement. What does it mean?

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We've been patiently waiting for the right time to run a "shaking hands" image. On this momentous occasion, we proudly present it to you.

We’ve been patiently waiting for the right time to run a “shaking hands” image. On this momentous occasion, we proudly present it to you.

Samsung and Google have signed a global patent cross-license agreement that applies to all of the companies’ existing patents — as well as any filed over the next decade.

The two mega-companies, which now have access to each other’s patent portfolios, say the agreement will encourage “deeper collaboration on research and development of current and future products and technologies,” according to the press release, which also featured this quote:

“This agreement with Google is highly significant for the technology industry,” said Dr. Seungho Ahn, the Head of Samsung’s Intellectual Property Center. “Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes.”

So what does this really mean? The Wall Street Journal writes that the companies are presenting a unified Android front against Apple:

The deal comes amid patent litigation between Apple and Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone maker by shipments, whose best-selling devices run Google’s Android platform.

Apple has accused the South Korean company of allegedly copying the design and feel of its iPhones and iPads, in a case that dates to 2011. The two technology giants have been asked by a court in California to hold negotiations to try to settle their legal dispute before a new case is set to go to trial in March.

The latest litigation involves some of Samsung’s newer smartphones, including the Galaxy S III. Last year, a U.S. federal jury in California ruled that Samsung violated some of Apple’s patents and awarded [Apple] damages of nearly $1 billion.

“Samsung and Google own a lot of patents, but they haven’t been able to gain much leverage from those patents against Apple, Microsoft and others,” Florian Mueller, an intellectual-property consultant in Germany who specializes in software patents, wrote on his blog.

CNET views it as a stab at Apple too:

The two companies provided essentially no details about the terms of the deal or what patents and technologies its covers, only saying that it’s “mutually beneficial.” However, they did take veiled shots at Apple, stressing how two big companies can work together to avoid litigation.

TechCrunch summed it up thusly:

There are a few key reasons why this is an important piece of news:

First, the deal will bolster both Samsung and Google’s patent positions against patent infringement allegations and subsequent litigation from competitors, and specifically Apple, which has been involved in acrimonious, multinational patent battles worth billions of dollars against Samsung for years now, over Samsung’s Android-powered range of Galaxy smartphones and tablets.

Second, it is a sign of how Google continues to put the patents it gained from its $12.5 billion Motorola acquisition to good use across the Android ecosystem. The ecosystem part is key here. I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see deals like this one appear with other OEMs.

Third, it makes clear that even if Samsung potentially starts to look at ways of breaking away from Android for more control of a mobile platform of its own (something it is rumored to be planning) it will continue to cooperate with Google.

Samsung also made nice with Ericsson today. Kumbaya!

Oddly, other scuttlebutt says Samsung is developing a Google Glass competitor. Is this a case of “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”?

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