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Apple, Google settle smartphone patent war

SAN FRANCISCO--Google and Apple, the two technology titans behind the world's top smartphone platforms, called a truce Friday in a long-running patent war.

“Apple and Google have agreed to dismiss all the current lawsuits that exist directly between the two companies,” the companies said in a joint statement.

“Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform.”

The companies made it clear that the detente does not include licensing their technology to each other.

Motorola filed a patent lawsuit against Apple in U.S. federal court four years ago, prompting the iPhone maker to fire back with a patent suit of its own. Litigation spread to more than a dozen other courts.

“The parties have entered into a second-class settlement from a position of mutual weakness,” wrote intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller at fosspatents.com.

“They had to recognize that under the procedural circumstances their patents were not strong enough to give either party decisive leverage over the other, at least not anytime soon,” Mueller wrote.

Widespread Patent Fight

Google took on the legal wrangling when it bought Motorola Mobility in 2012 in what was seen at the time as a move to use its patents for defending Android operating software in the increasingly litigious smartphone and tablet markets.

Early this year, Google agreed to sell Motorola Mobility to China-based computer giant Lenovo. The sale has yet to be completed.

California-based Apple has been battling smartphone competitors in courts around the world, accusing rivals using Google's Android software of copying features from its popular mobile devices.

The legal truce between Apple and Google does not take the pressure off South Korea-based Samsung, which has been a prime legal target for the maker of iPhones and iPads.

Japan's Intellectual Property High Court has ruled that Samsung could claim 9.96 million yen (US$98,000) from its U.S. arch-rival for use of Samsung's data transmission technology, found to have been used in Apple's iPhone 4 and iPad 2.

And early this month in Silicon Valley, jurors at a different patent trial held the line on its US$119.6 million damages award to Apple in a patent battle with Samsung.

While the amount of the award is huge, it is a fraction of the more than US$2 billion Apple had sought at the outset of the trial against is South Korean competitor in the hot smartphone and tablet computer market.

Jurors agreed that Samsung violated three of five Apple patents at issue in the two-month trial.

Jurors also found that Apple violated a Samsung patent, and said Apple should pay its rival US$158,400 in damages.

Holy War

Samsung lawyers maintained that the legal onslaught emerged from a “holy war” Apple declared on Google-made Android software used to power smartphones.

The argument evidently struck a chord with members of the panel, who remarked after the verdict that Apple and Google should deal with their mobile gadget patent issues face to face instead of in courts.

The truce did not touch on Apple patent lawsuits aimed at Google partners who make Android-powered smartphones or tablets.

The outcome in the recent Silicon Valley trial pitting Apple against Samsung was sharply different from a 2012 patent trial in the same court. Unlike the previous case in which Apple was a clear winner, this time Samsung prevailed in many areas.

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