Samsung, Google Patent Deal Feels like a Hollow Move

Google and Samsung struck a ten-year patent cross licensing deal over the weekend they characterize as an example for the rest of the industry. While the two companies are pushing the deal as a positive move for innovation, it rings hollow and seems more like an attempt to make the competitors they're already fighting over patent infringement claims look bad.

Samsung, Google cross licensed patents, but why?Samsung, Google cross licensed patents, but why?

Dr. Seungho Ahn, the executive in charge of Samsung’s Intellectual Property Center, said,

This agreement with Google is highly significant for the technology industry. Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes.

Dr. Ahn found himself in the spotlight last year when word surfaced that Samsung had obtained secret Apple and Nokia licensing documents through the law firm representing it in its patent litigation with Apple. At the time, Nokia executives said Dr. Ahn mentioned the documents during licensing negotiations. At the time, he dismissed the complaint saying, "All information leaks."

The idea that Samsung needs to license Google's patents so it can continue to innovate feels like a stretch because it isn't as if Samsung is making smartphones and tablets with its own operating system. Instead, it is using Google's Android operating system, and that doesn't require a patent cross-licensing deal. The deal lets both companies look as if they're openly cooperating with competitors to swing patent licensing agreements.

For Samsung, anything that could help it look better in the eyes of U.S. Federal Court Judges is probably a good move, although in this case it may not help much. The electronics maker suffered a big loss last August when a jury ruled it was willfully infringing on several iPhone and iPad design patents, and has failed to convince any U.S. court that Apple is infringing on its patents.

Judge Lucy Koh recently ruled that Samsung is violating Apple's predictive typing patent ahead of a new infringement trial set for this March. She also ruled Samsung's multimedia sync patent was invalid, taking away one of the claims the company had against Apple.

Samsung could try to use the deal to make itself look better in the eyes of the Court and the public should it not reach a pretrial settlement with Apple. The two companies are fighting over allegations again that they are using each other's patent protected technologies without proper licensing.

Both CEOs have agreed to meet ahead of the trial for settlement talks, although there is little hope they'll reach an agreement. Samsung is expected to continue asking for licensing fees that Apple sees as far too high, and Samsung won't likely agree to Apple's "no cloning" provision that leaves the door open for future infringement lawsuits.

The general public may be inclined to see Samsung and Google as the good guys for cooperating on a patent licensing deal, but it may not be so easy to convince the Court. Judge Koh has already dealt with Samsung dragging its heals and failing to cooperate, while a Jury has already called the company a big time infringer.

Unless Samsung has big plans for products that really do need patent licensing from Google, the deal won't likely do much to help the company in court with its fight against Apple, or any other competitors.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]