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Google and top Android partners agree to share software patents

Google and top Android partners agree to share software patents

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Google and a group of top Android phone makers have sealed a new agreement to collectively defend themselves against patent lawsuits.

The group, which also includes Samsung, LG, and HTC, have agreed to share patents covering “Android and Google Applications” on any device that meets Android’s compatibility requirements. The patents will be shared for free, and the group is supposed to be free and open for any company to join.

The agreement’s proper name is the “Android Networked Cross-License,” but the group is calling it PAX for short. “Pax” means “peace” in Latin, and Google says the agreement is about reaching a legal peace within the tech world.

“Patent peace often coincides with innovation.”

“In the world of intellectual property, patent peace often coincides with innovation and healthy competition that benefit consumers,” writes Jamie Rosenberg, an Android business VP with Google. “It is with a hope for such benefits that we are announcing our newest patent licensing initiative focusing on patent peace, which we call PAX.”

It’s not entirely clear what types of patents will be shared through this agreement, or what threats these companies hope to defend against. But generally speaking, the agreement ought to help participants defend against patent trolls — companies that own patents make nothing, and only bring in money through lawsuits — and potentially even other large tech companies should they get into a standoff over intellectual property. The PAX group writes that they believe signing up “materially reduces patent risk.”

We’ve reached out to Google for more information on what the agreement covers.

The agreement could be a big win for Samsung and Google. Samsung makes and sells more Android devices than any other company on the list, and this pact makes it a harder target for patent trolls to hit. For Google, this agreement also helps to open the Android ecosystem up to smaller companies that may be interested in making a device but fear litigation.

While this agreement should help to defend Android manufacturers against some lawsuits on its own, its scope is fairly specific and seems to be limited to software. This isn’t the only licensing agreement of its kind, though. Google previously started a group that pledges to only use patents defensively, while another group it co-founded, the LOT Network, prevented companies from buying up patents just to sue others.