Apple & Google CEOs holding secret meetings aimed at resolving patent disputes

by David Needle

August 30 2012

Apple and Google could be working to settle patent disputes between the two companies
Apple and Google could be working to settle patent disputes between the two companies

Google CEO Larry Page and his counterpart at Apple Tim Cook have been discussing a range of mobile patents issues the two tech giants have been fighting over for some time.

The news comes the week after Apple’s stunning $1.05 billion court victory in a high profile patent dispute with Samsung that the Korean device maker is appealing. Samsung, which relies on Google’s Android operating system, was found guilty on a series of charges that a number of its Galaxy phones and tablets infringed on Apple’s patents.

The two CEOs had a phone conversation last week and are expected to talk again, according to a report by Reuters citing several unnamed sources who confirmed the talked.

What’s not known is the scope of the discussions.

The two companies could, for example, be looking to cease litigation over some of the basic features and functions in Android that Apple has challenged.

Another possible area of discussion is the recent complaint Motorola Mobility (now a unit of Google) filed against Apple with the International Trade Commission that claimed Apple’s devices infringed some of Motorola’s patents.

Apple has also been looking to be less reliant on Google which was one of a handful of launch partners for the original iPhone. For example, Apple recently ditched Google Maps in favor of its own mapping software on the iPhone. Apple also announced that it would no longer include Google’s YouTube as a pre-loaded app in future versions of the iPhone.

The impact on users?

Analyst Roger Kay says a negotiated settlement over the patent issues would be good for the industry and consumers as well.

“I would like to see them settle these issues with a reasonable licensing agreement. If they did the mobile ecosystem would heave a big sigh of relief.”

Kay says vendors he’s talked with haven’t changed their plans to bring out Android devices but some are reevaluating whether they need to look at Windows 8 as an alternative.

During the discovery phase of the Apple Samsung trial it was revealed that Apple had earlier, under the late Steve Jobs, offered Samsung the right to license certain patents for as much as $30 per device.

Kay said Apple’s negotiations with Google will go nowhere if those prices are still in play because they add too much to the cost of each device.

He also said Google could cover the costs of a settlement by changing the way it freely licenses Android.

“Google needs to grow up and become a real company that licenses technology and collects royalties,” said Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates.

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