Google, Rockstar reach deal to settle lawsuit over Nortel patents

Backed by Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Ericsson and Sony, Rockstar acquired Nortel's patents after outbidding Google

Google has agreed to settle a patent lawsuit brought by Rockstar, a patent company that had earlier acquired a trove of patents from Nortel Networks.

In a filing in a Texas federal court, Rockstar said a binding term sheet had been executed that "settles, in principle, all matters in controversy between the parties" in the patent infringement dispute.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. A term sheet is usually an outline of an agreement arrived at ahead of a more detailed legal document.

As part of a rash of lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division in October last year, Rockstar alleged that seven patents it acquired from Nortel were infringed by Google. The patents, all titled "Associative Search Engine," refer to an invention used to provide advertisements based on users' search terms.

Backed by Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Ericsson and Sony, Rockstar acquired Nortel's patents for US$4.5 billion after outbidding Google in 2011.

The new agreement between Google and Rockstar does not appear to cover other patent infringement lawsuits that Rockstar and its subsidiaries filed against Samsung Electronics and some other licensees of Android in October last year in the same court.

Following an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit by Google, these lawsuits in Texas against its partners have been put on hold until a court in California decides on a Google request for a ruling that it does not directly or indirectly infringe the seven Rockstar patents that the partners are accused of infringing. The Internet company said the suits in Texas threatened its business and relationships with its customers and partners and its sales of Nexus-branded Android devices.

In its filing this week, Rockstar has asked the Texas court to stay all deadlines in the case against Google in Texas until Dec. 29 as it works to convert the term sheet into a definitive agreement. Google could not be immediately reached for comment on the settlement.

"This period (45 days from the Term Sheet) is necessary due to the complexity of the transaction and the number of additional parties whose claims are concurrently being resolved," according to the filing, which suggests that Rockstar may also be negotiating with Samsung and the other companies it filed patent lawsuits against in October last year in Texas.

The settlement between Google and Rockstar suggests a general winding down of patent disputes, particularly in the smartphone business. In May, Apple and Google agreed to drop all patent infringement lawsuits between the two companies, while Cisco Systems recently indicated that a settlement with Rockstar was imminent in a patent dispute.

Longstanding rivals Samsung and Apple also agreed in August to end litigation outside the U.S., though the two companies continue to butt heads in patent disputes in a district court in California.

On the flip side, Samsung sued Nvidia recently for patent infringement, adding a charge of false advertising about the processor used in the Shield tablet, after Nvidia sued Samsung and Qualcomm in September for infringing patents related to its GPU technology.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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