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Google signs patent agreement with China’s Tencent


© Flickr/cc-licence/Chinwag

  • Google announces patent cross-licensing agreement with Tencent
  • Deal covers an unspecified “broad range” of products and technologies
  • The companies agree to collaborate on future technology

Google is accelerating its efforts to gain more business (and friends) in China, with the announcement today of a patent licensing deal with Tencent Holdings. The Alphabet company is struggling to make an impact in China, as many of its products are blocked by the country’s regulators, favouring their home-grown alternatives. No financial details were revealed, and Tencent operates a largely non-existent press service, but Google did issue a brief statement.

“We’re pleased to enter into a patent cross-license with Tencent,” said Mike Lee, Google’s head of patents, in the statement. “By working together on agreements such as this, tech companies can focus on building better products and services for their users.”

"We are pleased to advance the collaboration between the two leading technology companies," said Sam Xu, deputy general counsel and head of intellectual property at Tencent, quoted on the Xinhua news site. "With this agreement, both companies can focus on bringing greater products and services to consumers around the world."

It’s obviously not the licensing deal for Google, but it is the first with a major Chinese company. Similar agreements have been made previously with Samsung and Cisco, for example. The rationale is hinted at in Mike Lee’s comment – it removes, or at least reduces, the risk of costly and lengthy patent disputes and litigation.

Last month, Alphabet announced the creation of an Artificial Intelligence Lab in Beijing; its first in China. It has also made an investment in the Chushou streaming service for gamers and will be opening an office in Shenzhen.

“Focused on basic AI research, the centre will consist of a team of AI researchers in Beijing, supported by Google China’s strong engineering teams,” wrote Fei-Fei Li, Chief Scientist for Cloud AI at Google, on her blog last month. “China is home to many of the world's top experts in AI and machine learning. All three winning teams of the ImageNet Challenge in the past three years have been largely composed of Chinese researchers.”

Tencent is one of China’s tech darlings, and the company behind the one billion user WeChat social media and payments service. Now valued at around $500 billion, it continues to build on its online gaming business and has made a number of investments in global companies such as Snap, Spotify and Tesla.

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