Today’s good news in the long running dispute between Apple and Samsung is that the two companies have resumed negotiations over their long running patent dispute in the US courts. In fact the objective seems to be an overall resolution to the copycat allegations. Samsung’s preference is for a broad-based licensing deal. But over the Christmas period smartphone patent litigation began to look very messy even by its own intricate standards.
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The announcement of Apple and Samsung negotiations comes a couple of days after Apple once again sought an injunction against Samsung, curiously in this case for products that Samsung no longer sells in the US.
Apple again filed a motion to block Samsung from selling about two-dozen products, saying it needs to protect itself from future harm. One of Apple’s justifications for the injunction: No one is going to get harmed, since the products aren’t for sale anymore.
Yes very curious.
Apple claims this new injunction would set the baseline for further relief if Samsung infringes in future. It seems a curious way to resume negotiations but maybe not. It certainly applies more pressure to Samsung as they face each other across the table and it comes in the wake of a Federal Appeals Court ruling that the original District Court Judge, Judge Lucy Koh, erred in not awarding Apple injunctive relief last year.
The moves coincide with Google’s counter-suit against the Apple and Microsoft backed Rockstar patent consortium. Rockstar collectively outbid Google for the Nortel patent chest and in October started up legal actions against Android users such as ASUS, HTC, Huawei, LG, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE alleging patent infringements. Note that Samsung belongs in that group too and Apple is an instigator in what GigaOm describes as a corporate troll that has now drawn over 100 companies into the litigation net. Google is most worried about its Nexus 5, 7 and 10 devices.
By and large, however, Apple’s main partner in Rockstar, Microsoft, is seen as a good corporate citizen in patent issues. Intellectual Asset Management recently reported on several endorsements of Microsoft’s approach to IP:
For the third consecutive year, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has rated the company’s portfolio as the strongest in the software industry; while the Patent Board ranks Microsoft as number one in information technology.
That was on top of recognition from Index Fund researchers Ocean Tomo and Intellectual Asset Management magazine itself, which estimates Microsoft’s IP royalty deals now at over 500.
One interpretation of Rockstar’s recent activities is that its backers are worried about recouping some of the $4.5 billion invested in the patents’ acquisition. And no doubt Apple has been keen to lean on Android, as well as Samsung in a dispute that goes back to the very founding of the Android alliance. Microsoft’s participation though should create a presumption of a real case to answer, and that is certainly no consolation to Samsung executives who have until January 8th to negotiate a deal with Apple.
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