Patent expert says agreement may be coming in near-term
By Kim Yoo-chul
Samsung Electronics and Apple have recently agreed to begin talks to settle patent disputes out of court, according to people directly involved with the matter, Monday.
"Samsung has recently resumed working-level discussions with Apple and the key issue is how to dismiss all lawsuits," they said, declining to be named.
They added that the recent verdict in the U.S. that admitted Apple's infringement on some Samsung patents made things much better for the resumption of talks.
"Some more time will be needed to fix terms of details such as royalty payments in return for using patents owned by each before reaching a full agreement."
The move comes a few days after Apple and Google agreed to dismiss all patent disputes, meaning a complete closure of the litigation that had started in 2010 with both parties bearing their own court and attorney costs.
Google has been consistent in helping Samsung over legal counseling, while promising to pay monetary damages, if Samsung, representative of Google Android Alliance, reels from any major setback in court in its fight with Apple.
In an e-mailed interview, Florian Mueller, a German-based intellectual property expert, said he is optimistic than ever that a settlement could be reached very soon.
"Things should come to an end during the summer. Apple doesn't have an endgame strategy. Its agreement with Google shows that its management is looking for a face-saving exit strategy from Steve Jobs' thermonuclear ambitions that were based on a totally unrealistic assessment of the strength of Apple's patent portfolio," Mueller said.
In a question about the "key conditions" before a settlement, the expert answered; "I believe a one-time payment from Samsung to Apple for past infringement of U.S. design patents would be reasonable."
Apart from that, he said, Apple and Samsung should enter into a ceasefire agreement like Apple and Google just did.
"They could withdraw their mutual lawsuits around the globe and agree not to bring new suits for a certain period of time. They wouldn't necessarily have to agree on a comprehensive cross-license," he said.
"The Apple-Google deal may be a good model, except for the design patents part, which is only about money and doesn't have strategic implications."
In the second-round of the Samsung-Apple dispute in the San Jose, California court presided over by Judge Lucy H. Koh, Apple had been seeking more than $2 billion in damages, but received $119.6 million.
Also, jurors ruled Apple should also pay Samsung over the former's infringement of Samsung patents.
Mueller stressed it's going to be the most rational choice for Apple to recognize that the Cupertino-based outfit won't be able to accomplish any "strategic objectives" through further pursuit of patent infringement litigation.
"Apple won't regain market share that way. It won't even have an impact on Samsung's reputation. This has become a waste of time and money. Apple and Google have agreed to withdraw their pending lawsuits but they've basically agreed to disagree on the underlying strategic questions. That's why it's only a ceasefire, not a cross-license agreement," he said.
Some say the Google-Apple agreement was seen as an effort by Apple to put more focus on its fight against Samsung. But Mueller holds a different view.
"Theoretically the agreement with Google would enable Apple to focus even more on the dispute with Samsung. But in practical terms, it doesn't help Apple to free up resources if its patents are just too weak to have strategic impact," he said.