A few years ago it wouldn’t have been all that strange to see Google and Apple working closely together on something like a joint patent initiative. Then the “thermonuclear” rift happened and the cacophony of bitter lawsuits.
Indeed, in the wake of the global litigation between Apple and Google surrogate Samsung and the more direct (Google owned) Motorola-Apple lawsuits, it’s very unlikely to see these two companies working together.
Yet BusinessWeek reports that Google and Apple have teamed up to bid $500 million for bankrupt Eastman Kodak Co.’s patent portfolio:
The two companies, competing for dominance of the smartphone market, have partnered after leading two separate groups this summer to buy some of Kodak’s 1,100 imaging patents, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.
Kodak is currently in bankruptcy and trying to emerge from that process. Its patent portfolio has been valued at more than $2 billion. It’s unclear whether the Apple-Google bid will succeed accordingly. It’s also not clear who else may be bidding against them.
However if the Google-Apple bid wins, neither party could use these patents against the other. And Google could license them to other Android handset OEMs to effectively insulate the Android ecosystem against legal action by Apple.
That’s what makes this a bit strange. It neutralizes the threat from both sides on these particular patents.
Perhaps this marks a change in the relationship of the companies in the wake Tim Cook’s ascendancy to the throne of Apple. The more litigation-averse Cook said he would rather not go to court unlike his more mercurial and combative predecessor.