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Google, Rockstar agree to settle litigation over patents


Google Inc has agreed to settle litigation with patent consortium Rockstar, though terms of the deal were not disclosed in a court filing made public this week.

Rockstar, which counts Apple Inc as an investor, outbid Google and paid US$4.5 billion in 2011 for thousands of former Nortel Network Corp patents as the networking products supplier went bankrupt.

In October last year, Rockstar sued Google and several handset manufacturers whose phones operate on Google’s Android operating system. Rockstar accused Google of infringing seven Nortel patents, all related to search engine technology.

Google and Rockstar have agreed to settle “all matters in controversy between the parties,” according to a filing in a Texas federal court on Monday.

However, the document does not say whether Rockstar has also settled with handset makers, including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

A Google spokesman declined to comment on Thursday, and Rockstar representatives could not be reached. Samsung and Apple spokespeople were also not immediately available.

Google and Rockstar have reached a term sheet, which will be “reduced to a definitive agreement” over the next few weeks, the court filing said.

On that same day, Rockstar sued several handset makers over a different batch of patents.

Google then asked a California judge to rule that devices using the Android platform had not infringed the patents cited by Rockstar against the handset makers.

Google succeeded in halting the Texas proceedings against the handset makers while its California case plays out.

Earlier this month Cisco said it had signed a term sheet with Rockstar and would take a US$188 million charge related to that agreement.

In other developments, Google is experimenting with ways for Web sites to generate income without showing ads.

The Web-search provider —the world’s largest online advertiser — is testing a new service called Contributor that lets US Web surfers pay monthly subscriptions so they do not have to see ads, Google said on its Web site on Thursday.

Initial partners, which share revenue with Google, include technology news service Mashable Inc and satire Web site Onion Inc.

Google is sending out invitations for the feature, which will charge consumers US$1 to US$3 a month.

“Today’s Internet is mostly funded by advertising,” Google said. “But what if there were a way to directly support the people who create the sites you visit each day?”

Google is expanding beyond digital ads sprinkled throughout its Web properties and other Web sites as it looks to keep pace with the changing tastes of users and publishers. Earlier this month, the company’s YouTube video service announced a new subscription-based feature that would let users get music without having to see ads.

Andrea Faville, a spokeswoman for Mountain View, California-based Google, said 10 sites are testing the service.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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