Blog & Company News

Sep 14, 2012

Tech News: What if Samsung Licensed iOS Technology in 2010?

If you are keeping up with technology today there is a good chance that you know of the ongoing legal tussle between Apple and Samsung. The core of the argument is that Apple claims that Samsung is violating several of Apple’s design patents in several of its smart device products. It was revealed during the trial that in 2010 Apple offered Samsung the chance to license the technology. To make a long story short, Samsung refused, and today we have the infamous, ongoing legal wrangling. But if Samsung had agreed to license the technology as presented, would it have made a difference? Maybe not, at least according to the details about one such agreement Apple is making, and with none other than industry giant Microsoft.[1] Anti-Cloning Agreement In October 2010, Apple offered Samsung, an ongoing business partner, a deal to license the iOS patents for roughly $30 per smartphone and $40 per tablet.[2] While that would have cost Samsung a sizeable amount of money in 2010 alone (roughly $250 million), it is much cheaper than the damages Apple is seeking now in court. Legal reporter for Reuters Dan Levine points out an interesting component from a similar licensing agreement. He says,“Apple has licensed its design patents to Msft, but they have an "anticloning" agreement”[3] So, Apple is indeed licensing its iOS technology to rival Microsoft, but it is being very specific about the details of copying products. In a word, they are specifying, “don’t”. Given the inclusion of the component, this is no doubt a deal breaker for the agreement, and now Apple has it in writing that Microsoft will not seek to emulate Apple’s iOS. So far, that doesn’t seem to be an issue for Windows 8. Microsoft’s approach to the touch interface differs substantially from the iOS environment, and the patent agreements should work nicely in covering any incidental functional similarities. But perhaps more importantly to Apple, this gives the folks at Cupertino a signed agreement that practically legitimizes the iOS patents. If Samsung Had Signed Let’s rewind the clock a bit, and imagine that Samsung had licensed the technology when Apple had presented it. On the surface, it would seem that all would be fine and Apple would be happy with the substantial stipend that Samsung would be paying for the licensed iOS design technology. But now we have to wonder if that “anticloning” component was part of the original agreement offered to Samsung in 2010. If so, we would probably still find ourselves in a heated legal battle between Apple and Samsung over trade dress and patents. But I would have to believe that a jury would find Samsung to be much more palatable if it had been paying Apple a quarter of a billion dollars a year for the use of its iOS patents. Appease The Wrath of Jobs   Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing what today would yield if the past had been different. Sure, we can speculate about the better relationship between Samsung and Apple if Samsung was paying for iOS patents. But would this have appeased Apple founder Steve Jobs, who famously stated (4), "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."[4] Monetarily acknowledging the importance of the iOS design patents to Samsung products certainly could not have hurt, and perhaps being an active business partner with Apple would have also played a hand. However, Samsung did not license the technology, and we have the legal battles of today. But as I look at the similarities of key Samsung and Apple products today involved in the legal skirmish, I can come to only one conclusion – it would have probably not helped.
[1] Apple licensing iOS design patents to Microsoft [2] According to court documents made public[3] Tweet from @fedcourtjunkie [4] Steve Jobs Called Android 'Stolen Product,' Vowed To Fight To His 'Dying Breath'