According to a new report this afternoon, Apple and Samsung have held a series of private negotiations about their numerous patent disputes since a court victory by Apple in one case last summer. 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. Report Updated July 21, 2013 7:35 AM MST
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 Wall Street Journal report also stated that "The fact that representatives for both parties were able to reach a memorandum of understanding," the document reads, "indicates Samsung is negotiating in good faith and, to be colloquial, is playing in the same ballpark as Apple.
The two companies have reason to settle. They are deeply intertwined, with Samsung supplying parts for Apple's mobile devices while the iPhone maker is one of Samsung's biggest customers for processors and memory chips.
Though Apple has attempted to reduce its reliance on Samsung by recently signing an agreement with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to make some chips starting in 2014, Apple has also reportedly signed an agreement with Samsung to produce some chips in 2015, according to the Korea Economic Daily."
In May we reported that Apple had resumed business with Samsung Display followed by another report in June about Apple using Samsung PCI Express Solid State Drives for the MacBook Air. In a game of Apple loves me they love me not, we reported on July 10 that Apple's contract with Samsung for processors would end at the end of 2014 and that Apple wasn't going to renew it due to the fact that they had lined up TMSC for future processor needs including Apple's A8 processor.
Then in a surprising twist, news broke that Samsung would regain some of Apple's business on July 15. The political winds have been hard to understand. But the timeline that The Wall Street Journal's report provides us with may indicate that the two sides may have indeed reached an agreement to end their patent disputes.
The recent shift of Apple's parts orders going back to Samsung may actually be the proof that behind the scenes, the deal is already in the works. Yet Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at market researcher IDC recently stated that Apple and Samsung "have a classic symbiotic relationship," adding that "even though Apple continues to divorce its business from the Korean tech giant, it still will likely rely on it for some parts for a while. That's the painful transition process they're in."
So is Apple still in an awkward transition away from Samsung, or is the recent see-sawing activity back to Samsung for parts a sign that the dispute between the two tech giants could be coming to a close with a meaningful cross-licensing deal?
While only time will tell how this will really play out in the months ahead, I'd still like to know your take on this possible deal. Is it for real or will these two tech giants slug it out in the courts for the next decade? Send in your comments.
Update July 21, 2013: The Korea Times today reported on this subject. Notably they added the following:
Samsung’s move to seek a compromise with Apple is in line with the Korean
firm’s shift in its strategy toward minimizing patent disputes and focusing more
The company has recently entered a
comprehensive cross-licensing deal with SK hynix for the next five years. Under
the agreement, the two firms will have full access to each other’s patents.
Samsung and SK hynix have 102,995 and 21,422 chip-making patents,
In a similar move, it also ended the disputes with Rambus of the United States by paying $900 million in return for using the American chip designer’s patents.
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