More cross-licensing deals abound
While cross-licensing agreements of this magnitude in the mobile industry seem rare, they are quite common among players in more mature industries. Japanese consumer electronics companies such as Sony, Panasonic, JVC, and others have been hip-deep in cross-licensing among each other for decades. Cross-licensing deals also became common among PC OEMs, says Epstein, when mini-computer companies such as Digital Equipment and Data General went after the emerging vendors of personal computers.
IHS analyst Sideco also observed that cross-licensing is already relatively common even in smartphones and the mobile industry, although on a scale much smaller than the Google/Samsung deal.
Epstein predicts, "Expect companies like LG and HTC" to join the mobile cross-licensing fray.
What about Rockstar Consortium?
It is not just premature but false to frame the Google-Samsung cross-licensing agreement in reference to the Rockstar Consortium, warned both industry analysts. Although the media love to paint a picture that pits two diverging camps against each other -- Google-Samsung vs. Rockstar Cosortium -- "the two have nothing to do with each other," according to Epstein.
It is easy to paint the false picture, though, because the Rockstar Consortium -- a group including Apple, Microsoft, and Sony that paid $4.5 billion for a set of Nortel patents in a 2011 auction -- sued Google, Samsung, and six other smartphone makers that use Android.
Noting that the genesis of the Rockstar Consortium is based on a "two-year-old idea" when everyone was still in the mode of using patents against each other, Epstein believes the reality today is that the so-called platform battle in the smartphone is coming to an end, and key players in the smartphone market are coming to understand that it's time to create "an open playing field for everyone."
IHS analyst Sideco agrees.
The Google/Samsung cross-licensing agreement can only work against the Rockstar Consortium if the deal can help the two companies indemnify each other on the use of their patents, explained Sideco. "It's a big if, because we don't even know if the cross-licensing agreement has such an indemnification clause."
In the end, he cautions, "We need to look at the Google-Samsung deal in isolation."
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times