Why Apple and Google Ended Their Thermonuclear Rift

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It may seem surprising to learn that archrivals Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) have come to an agreement to dismiss their patent lawsuits related to smartphone technology.

After all, Steve Jobs, Apple's late co-founder and former CEO, once said he would Google's Android operating system was a "stolen product" and that he would "go thermonuclear war" to destroy it.

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The agreement suggests that the two companies will work together on (among other things) patent reform. But they also made it clear that they don't plan on licensing their technologies to one other. In a joint statement, the two tech companies said:

"Apple and Google have agreed to dismiss all the current lawsuits that exist directly between the two companies. Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform. The agreement does not include a cross license."

It wasn't immediately clear why the two companies decided now was the time to end their feud, which has gone on since 2010, when what was then Motorola claimed that Apple infringed on its patent. Apple filed a countersuit. This became Google's fight after Google picked up Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012.

Over the past two years, both companies have been in and out of court in the U.S. and Europe, fighting close to two dozen patent cases. Google might have grown tired. Or maybe it was forced to come to terms.

Google recently agreed to sell off Motorola's phone business to Lenovo (LNVGY). Although it planned to keep the bulk of the patents it inherited from Motorola. But it's unclear which patents the search giant planned to keep. I don't believe Lenovo, which has its own mobile ambitions, wants anything to do with Apple in court.

Lenovo is aware of the nastiness that exists between Apple and Samsung, which brings up another interesting situation.

Apple and Samsung just ended their latest patent trial, during which, a jury awarded Apple $120 million upon deciding that Samsung violated three Apple mobile patents. Whether contractually bonded or otherwise, Google covered some of Samsung's legal costs for that trial.

Google's Android has become the most popular mobile operating system in the world due to Samsung's incredible growth. Maybe Google felt it was the least it could do.

But this agreement between Apple and Google does not apply to the ongoing disputes between Apple and Samsung. So what exactly do they get out of this?

Both companies realize they have a common enemy: so-called patent trolls. These are companies that exists for the sole purpose of suing other companies. Patent trolls' primary targets have been Apple and Google, which have been sued roughly 200 times each since 2009. In fact, Apple ranked as their top litigating target in 2013. Google was not far behind, at No. 3.

So instead of fighting each other, both companies have joined forces to fight the trolls, including asking the Supreme Court to force those who lose frivolous patent suits to pay the legal fees for the defense.

It remains to be seen what comes out of this. But one thing is certain, if Apple and Google are able to focus their attention more on innovation and less on going "thermonuclear," consumers will be the winners.

At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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