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Is Google helping Samsung fight Apple?

Apple is engaged in a number of lawsuits and countersuits with Android device manufacturers, but so far there has been no direct clash with Google. Is Google helping its partners behind the scenes?
August 13, 2012

An interesting article on CNET is suggesting that Google may be supporting Samsung in its trial with Apple. While Google and Apple have yet to fight directly, Google has been providing support to its Android partners behind the scenes. Google’s law firm of choice for intellectual property matters, Quinn Emmanuel, is also representing Samsung, Motorola, and HTC in litigation with Apple over patent infringement.

The suggestion is that Google is helping to prepare Samsung’s case and may even be providing assistance with legal costs. With Google refusing to comment, this is pure speculation, but it makes a lot of sense.

We know that Google tried to lend patents to HTC to help in its case with Apple. Google even attempted to join HTC as a co-defendant in its case with Nokia.

Google vs. Apple inevitable

The current trial between Apple and Samsung is focused on Samsung’s hardware and software design. It’s not directly about the Android OS so it’s unclear how far Google will be willing to go in its support of Samsung. However, another pending conflict that Google can’t avoid concerns the Galaxy Nexus and unified search. U.S. sales of the Galaxy Nexus were actually briefly banned. The ban was subsequently lifted, but we can expect further litigation over this in future. The current ruling grants a stay on the Galaxy Nexus ban until at least August 20.

The acquisition of Motorola Mobility will also bring Google into a direct legal battle with Apple for the first time. It was widely suggested that Google acquired Motorola Mobility largely for the sizeable patent portfolio after it missed out on the Nortel patent package (acquired by a consortium including Apple and Microsoft). Along with patents, Google also inherited legal battles with Microsoft and Apple. How it will proceed remains to be seen, but short of a licensing deal, conflict seems inevitable.

If lawsuits and licensing deals from Apple and Microsoft can drive up the cost of adopting Android for manufacturers then they may start to look elsewhere. Google simply can’t let that happen.