Internet giant Google has inked a patent cross-licensing deal with its Chinese equivalent Tencent as the company considers a return to China - from where it retreated in 2009 following a crackdown on social media by the country's authoritarian government.
The patent cross-licensing deal is intended to prevent any legal dispute between the two companies should Google return to China in a big way, as it would be unlikely to win in any disagreement with a Chinese company in China's legal system.
Although Google hasn't gone into great detail about the partnership, it has said that it covers a range of products and solutions. The company admitted that the deal is intended to pave the way for its future in the country.
Tencent specialises in the social media and gaming. WeChat, a social media and payments platform, is the company's leading product. It's used by almost a billion Chinese users.
Mike Lee, head of patents at Google, indicated that the two companies could work together on new products and services in China. "By working together on agreements such as this, tech companies can focus on building better products and services for their users," he said.
While Google withdrew from China after its Weibao Chinese language service was taken offline without explanation at the end of 2009 and its translation partner, Yeeyan, was removed by its internet service provider.
In June, reports The Guardian, China's government proposed installing 'Green Dam' censorship software on every PC, which would filter both pornographic and politically sensitive content (ie: content that China's rulers didn't want China's people to read).
Instead, though, it has tightened monitoring of social media, including trying to tie accounts to real-world identities, and then tying those real-world identities to social credit monitoring - denying people credit on the basis of their online activities.
Google already has an AI research facility in China, and it recently invested in Chushou, a China-based livestream gaming service similar to Amazon-owned Twitch.
Last month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was a surprise guest at a conference held by the Cyberspace Administration of China. The organisation is responsible for state censorship.
According to Bloomberg, he said: "A lot of work Google does is to help Chinese companies. There are many small and medium-sized businesses in China who take advantage of Google to get their products to many other countries outside of China."
China is notorious for its strict regulations on foreign technology products and software. Although Android is widely used on smartphones in China, Google's app store, search engine and web services are blocked by Chinese regulators, forcing users to use less tightly regulated sources for downloading apps - with inevitable consequences.
This could change now that the firm has partnered with Chinese tech company Tencent. Google has formed such alliances with Samsung, Cisco and LG in the past.
The alliance with Tencent might help keep the authorities onside. Tencent also has a deal with South Korean games software company Bluehole, which produces the wildly popular Player Unknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG).
In advance of the release of the game by Tencent in China, the police in the country obliged by arresting 120 developers of cheat applications - demonstrating the value of local relationships in doing business in China.
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