By Ian Sherr
Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. have held a series of private negotiations about their patent disputes since last summer when Apple notched a victory in one case, according to legal documents and people familiar with the matter.
The negotiations included face-to-face meetings in Seoul, South Korea, in December, one document states. The two companies even appeared to come close to a settlement in February before talks cooled off.
There is no indication that the two sides are close to a settlement, but talks between the companies are still going on, the people familiar with the discussions said.
In the negotiations, described sparingly in heavily redacted documents from the U.S. International Trade Commission made public earlier this month and by people familiar with them, Samsung has pushed for a broad patent cross-licensing deal that could settle all outstanding litigation between the companies. It is unclear whether Apple was interested in such a deal.
The possibility of a broad settlement, or a series of separate deals, marks another twist in the relationship between the two technology giants that began with Samsung supplying parts necessary to make smaller and thinner iPod music players in 2005, and has ballooned into fierce competition over smartphones.
Samsung, relying primarily on the Android software platform created by Google Inc., stormed into the smartphone lead in 2011, selling 24 million units in the third quarter of that year, according to Gartner. Apple, by comparison, sold 17 million iPhones in that quarter. Samsung widened that lead in the first quarter of this year, selling 64.7 million smartphones, while Apple sold 38.3 million, Gartner said. The companies have been partners and combatants ever since.
Apple claimed Samsung copied its products in a lawsuit filed in 2011, touching off battles in courtrooms around the globe as the two jousted about technology patents and trademarked designs, with attempts to both win jury awards and block the sales of one another’s products.
Samsung has accused Apple of infringing broad patents that are deemed essential for creating wireless devices. Apple has generally accused the South Korean company of infringing patents covering unique functional aspects of its mobile devices or their physical designs.
So far, the results have been mixed, analysts say.
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(Published July 19, 2013 in The Wall Street Journal.)