According to reports and new court filings, an end to the long running legal battles between Apple and Google, along with various Android handset manufacturers, is finally within reach, just over a year since the mobile patent war escalated.
A federal judge involved in the disputes has agreed to stay a series of lawsuits involving Google, Android manufacturers and the patent consortium named Rockstar, of which Apple is the majority partner. Instead, a final settlement could be agreed upon by the parties as early as December 29th, although neither Apple, Google, nor the court has disclosed the terms or figures proposed in the settlement.
While the courts cannot provide much insight, intellectual property magazine IAM understands that at least five of the companies involved in the Rockstar group are looking for an exit from the cycle of disputes. Reportedly, Rockstar’s management had attempted a well-funded buyout of the dissatisfied parties, but this was rejected as some shareholders did not want to appear to be profiting from the group. As a result, the Rockstar group could instead be wound down, rather than risk being sold to a potential NPE (non-practicing entity or “patent troll”).
The exact cause for the group’s decision remain unclear for now. However, Apple has only scored partial success in its recent lawsuits against Cisco and Time Warner, had a case dismissed against Google last year in the US, came to a truce with Samsung earlier in the year, and now seems to be contradicting itself when lambasting patent trolls. Perhaps the momentum behind these lawsuits is finally running out.
Apple’s shift in patent policy comes as good news for both the industry and consumers, with fewer resources wasted on drawn out court cases and an end to indirect costs being passed on to consumers. Hopefully 2015 will become a year of closer cooperation between the big smartphone businesses and not just between a small selection of Android manufacturers.