The two firms together account for virtually all of the profit in the smartphone sector, and they have been locked in legal combat since Apple filed suit in 2011. A new report from The Wall Street Journal on Friday revealed the tech giants are continuing talks to resolve the patent issues, and that they were close to a cross-licensing deal within the past few months.
The report, based on recently released but heavily redacted documents from the U.S. International Trade Commission, holds that Samsung has been pushing for a broad patent cross-licensing deal that would resolve all outstanding litigation between the firms. Apple's interest in such a deal is uncertain.
Shortly after a jury handed Apple a $1.05 billion victory against Samsung, Apple and Samsung's talks ramped up. Apple has had a standing offer of a license for its patents at $30 per handset and $40 per tablet, with the possibility of discounts if Samsung agreed to cross-license its patents to Apple.
In December, according to the documents, the two companies were engaged in face-to-face meetings in Seoul, South Korea, with the goal of resolving the legal disputes. Those meetings, according to reports, brought the two close to an actual agreement on a settlement, but they are said to have cooled off by February. The two parties drafted a "memorandum of understanding" on February 7, laying out a potential settlement. That memorandum was brought to senior leadership at Samsung and Apple, but there is no indication within the ITC document as to those executives' take on the proposal.
The revelation of ongoing talks is not surprising, as Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said last year that he would "highly prefer" to settle patent litigation instead of fighting such issues out in the courts.Most of the settlement propositions have been redacted from the ITC document, but Apple has continually argued that Samsung's offers weren't specific, fair, or reasonable.
The ITC has countered Apple's complaints, though, saying that the fact "that representatives for both parties were able to reach a memorandum of understanding indicates Samsung is negotiating in good faith and, to be colloquial, is playing in the same ballpark as Apple."
The revelation of ongoing talks is not surprising, as Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said last year that he would "highly prefer" to settle patent litigation instead of fighting such issues out in the courts.
"I've always hated litigation, and I continue to hate it," Cook said. "If we could get to some kind of arrangement where we could be assured [against future patent infringement], I highly prefer to settle versus battle."
Continuing, Cook assured that his statements should not be taken as an indication that Apple was preparing to stand down in its numerous legal struggles. Cook held fast to the notion that other companies need to be responsible for creating their own intellectual property.
"The key thing is that Apple not become the developer for the world," the Apple chief said, "we need people to invent their own stuff."
More recently, Samsung CEO J.K. Shin seemed less optimistic about the possibility of a settlement between the two rivals.
"Patent disputes against Apple will continue," Shin said in June shortly after the handed Samsung a win in the form of an import ban on older iPhones and iPads.