Four-star U.S. general Oliver P. Smith is credited with the statement: “We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.” He must have worked for Google in a different universe.

Google subsidiary Motorola has terminated its International Trade Commission complaint against Apple. That complaint was aimed at an import ban on basically all Apple devices due to alleged infringement of no fewer than seven patents, covering location reminders, media players, alerts and notifications, and yes, Siri-style voice recognition.

Now, however, Motorola has unilaterally and mysteriously withdrawn the complaint.

I checked with Google for an explanation, and received one almost immediately. What the response had in terms of speed, however, it lacked in detail. Google is stating only the following:

“As we have said many times before, we will continue to vigorously defend our partners.”

Above: Googler with pink employee (no, not really)

Beyond that, everything is guesswork. Could this mean that there is some kind of deal being done between Google, Apple, and the major Android manufacturers that might lead to a lasting patent peace in mobile electronics?

Well, pink unicorns would be nice too.

That may be too much to ask for. But Google’s clearly saying here that it is “vigorously” defending Android licensees. If it’s not doing that in the ITC, it must be either doing that at the local court level … or, dare we hope, at the negotiation table.

There is one other option, of course.

The last time Apple, Android, and the ITC hooked up, HTC was the Google proxy victim, and the result was not pretty for the only significant non-iOS smartphone platform. HTC lost, and the trade commission judge found that its phones infringed two key Apple patents.

ITC battles are dangerous because they could lead to import bans and nearly immediate massive revenue losses. And Google/Motorola could be trying to avoid a tit-for-tat ITC action from Apple.

Or, perhaps Google has simply chosen another field of battle.

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