Insider Source: Apple and Samsung Renew Settlement Talks

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yaccdesign/

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF.PK) have restarted discussions over a possible settlement to its multiple patent-infringement lawsuits against one another, according to “people directly involved with the matter” cited by The Korea Times. “Samsung has recently resumed working level discussions with Apple and the key issue is how to dismiss all lawsuits,” said the unnamed source. “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 Korea Times’ source also noted that the mixed verdict in the recently concluded Apple v. Samsung trial in California may have spurred the latest attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement. In that trial, a jury awarded Apple nearly $120 million in damages over Samsung’s infringement of several smartphone technology patents held by the iPhone maker. However, Samsung was also awarded damages in the amount of $158,400 for Apple’s infringement of one its patents.

Patent law expert Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents noted that the last trial was the first time that Apple was found to be infringing on a non-standard-essential patent that Samsung holds. Standard-essential patents, or SEPs, cover essential technologies that companies are required to license under FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) terms. Samsung has been widely criticized in European and American courts for using its SEPs to try to win sales bans against its rivals. Last week, Japan’s Tokyo District Court also criticized Samsung’s abuse of the patent system by noting that the Korea-based company had failed to negotiate “in good faith” with Apple for a SEP licensing fee, reports Nikkei.

The resumption of settlement talks between Apple and Samsung comes on the heels of an announcement from Apple and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) that both are dropping multiple patent-infringement lawsuits against each other. “Apple and Google have agreed to dismiss all the current lawsuits that exist directly between the two companies,” said the two tech giants in a joint statement obtained by the Financial Times. “Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform. The agreement does not include a cross license.”

While some industry watchers thought that the settlement between Apple and Google would allow the Cupertino-based company to better focus its resources on its lawsuits against Samsung, it now appears that Apple is changing its overall patent-infringement litigation strategy. In an interview with The Korea Times, Mueller predicted that Apple may soon reach a deal with Samsung that is similar to the deal it reached with Google.

“Things should come to an end during the summer,” Mueller told The Korea Times. “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.”

So is this the end of the long-running smartphone patent war between Apple and Samsung? It should be noted that the two companies’ last attempt to reach a settlement ended in failure. In February, Apple and Samsung met in court-ordered mediation talks ahead of the last patent-infringement trial. According to a court filing provided by FOSS Patents, “The parties did not reach an agreement at that session.”

Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)

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