SEOUL— Samsung Electronics Co. and Google Inc. signed a broad cross-licensing deal on patents today bolstering an already strong alliance. Samsun and Google already collaborate together, largely on the Android operating system which by far is the dominant platform for mobile computing devices. The licensing deals covers the two companies’ existing patents and any filed over the next ten (10) years.
Apple had filed a highly covered patent litigation against Samsung that initially returned a damages award of over one billion dollars before the award was modified in March of 2013. On January 20, 2014 Ericsson and Samsung signed a separate deal on global patent licenses with Samsung paying an initial $650 million to Ericsson. Ericsson had brought an action with the United States International Trade Commission to block U.S. imports of Samsung products while the deal settled Samsung-Ericsson lawsuits in Texas.
Relationships between the technology giants had already been complicated in October of 2013 when Ericsson, Blackberry, Apple and Microsoft teamed up and sued Samsung, Google and other manufacturers of Android devices based on patents the group purchased from bankrupt Nortel. Last November 2013, Samsung extended a cross-license deal with Nokia to 2018 after Microsoft announced it would acquire the Finish company’s handset business.
Analysis – is Apple in Trouble?
Google just recently acquired the Nest thermostat company and has extended its research and development into biomedical devices such as contact lenses that can monitor blood glucose levels and self-driving cars. Samsung already has a highly diverse manufacturing portfolio which leads one to consider whether Apple is sufficiently diversified in other technology areas. Portable computing devices will continue to evolve and improve but at some point they may become a staple item rather than a self-defining, must-have accessory.
Is it time for Apple to extend its design experience into other areas? Automotive, aeronautics, prosthetics and biotechnology? They have the money to select the best of the best startup companies. For entrepreneurs looking for a major investor, it would make sense to align their business philosophy, attention to design and ease of use with Apple’s core values. It would not be surprising for Apple to see the writing on the wall and start thinking beyond consumer electronics…before it is too late.