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Microsoft and Google bury the patent hatchet

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado on July 14, 2014.Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado on July 14, 2014.
Microsoft CEO Satya NadellaStuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm TECH

Google and Microsoft, two of technology’s fiercest rivals, agreed on Wednesday to dismiss patent-related lawsuits between them.

The companies had about 20 lawsuits pending over uses of patents in mobile phones, wireless connectivity, Internet video, and other technologies. Some of those cases involved Google’s former Motorola Mobility unit, which is now owned by Lenovo of China.

Striking a conciliatory tone, the companies said they would “collaborate on certain patent matters” and “anticipate working together in other areas.” It’s a bit of a throwaway statement; in today’s technology industries, the norm is “coopetition” among “frenemies.”

Nevertheless it’s a coup for both companies. Today’s tech giants, from Apple to Samsung, are mired in litigation around the world, particularly around Internet connectivity and mobile technologies.

And it’s a historic coup for Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella in particular, whose predecessor, Steve Ballmer, is credited with ending a decade’s worth of antitrust litigation under his controversial watch. (And the company’s new president, Brad Smith, a legal expert who served under both.)

Google (GOOG) has also made strides ending potentially paralyzing litigation, such as its patent agreements with Cisco, LG, Samsung, and Verizon in 2014.

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