Apple and Samsung, two leading consumer electronics makers that remain to be strategic partners amid being arch rivals, this week announced that they would have a mediated meeting on the level of chief executive officers and in-house legal counsels ahead of a new trial that is set to begin in March. While the companies will discuss possible settlement of the legal war, it does not mean that a peace treaty will be inked.
Pursuant to the court’s order from back in November, Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, and Oh-Hyun Kwon, chief executive of Samsung, will have a meeting attended by a mediator, which will take place by or before February 19, 2014. The two companies have already agreed upon a mediator who has experience mediating high profile disputes, a court filing claims. Two CEOs will be accompanies only by internal legal counsels and no outside counsel will attend the mediation.
Apple and Samsung had two trials in the last two years and are about to start the third one in March. In the previous cases, Apple accused Samsung of copying design fundamentals of its products as well as infringing Apple’s patents related to graphics user interface (GUI). Samsung also accused Apple of illegal use of its intellectual property. The U.S. courts generally sided with Apple and awarded the Cupertino, California-based company a total of roughly $930 million in damages by Samsung.
Details regarding the third trial are yet to be uncovered, but according to Florian Mueller, an intellectual property expert who owns Foss Patents, Apple’s allegations this time may be potentially more impactful and/or tougher to work around than in the previous cases.
“Samsung and its lawyers are going to look at the patents Apple is asserting at the upcoming trial. Those are potentially more impactful than the design and user interface stuff asserted at the 2012. […] But if Samsung’s engineers and lawyers have a viable workaround strategy in place just in the event that Apple prevails and obtains an injunction, then Samsung has only a limited incentive to settle,” said Mr. Mueller.
While Apple and Samsung are fighting hard for the market of mobile devices, they remain key strategic partners, even though the former has been cutting its orders to the latter in the recent years. Samsung produces system-on-chips for all products that Apple sells today. The amount of chips that Apple orders helps Samsung to grow its foundry business, build leading-edge semiconductor fabs and develop new process technologies.
That said, it is absolutely clear that at some point in future the two companies will settle their legal disputes. Still, the ongoing conversation will not necessarily result into companies dropping charges against each other.