In the continuing trial of Apple vs. Samsung, we are continuing to get glimpses into how Apple conducts their secretive operations. Last week they revealed that Apple did offer to license iOS patents to Samsung back in 2010 but were rebuffed, and today their patent licensing director, Boris Teksler, testified that Apple licensed a series of patents to Microsoft that included an “anti-clone” restriction.
According to Teksler’s testimony, he could “count on one hand” the number of times Apple licensed their prized patents to other companies, which makes its offer to license to Samsung that much more noteworthy. Apple’s willingness to selectively license patents doesn’t extend to everything, though – they consider the “unique user experience” a highly protected category and the patent offered to Microsoft had “no right with respect to these design patents to build clones of any type.”
It’s possible that Microsoft may run into issues regarding their anti-cloning licensing agreement with its upcoming Surface tablet, which is their first foray into the tablet market and does appear to look a lot like an iPad. It has already ruffled feathers among Microsoft’s hardware partners who believe it is in direct competition with their devices. Microsoft, in turn, says the Surface tablet is more of a halo device designed to help competitors rather than hurt them by becoming an all-in-one ecosystem utilizing Windows 8 and offering the same unified experience across phones, tablets and PCs. It sure sounds similar to Apple’s setup, but given their licensing agreement with Apple it is more likely that the user experience with Windows is different enough to adhere to the anti-clone clause.
Perhaps negotiations with Samsung fell apart because they didn’t want to agree to a restrictive anti-cloning clause, or maybe they didn’t think that Apple had a case against them for copyright infringement and chose not to invest in licensing the offered patents. It will be interesting to see what they come up with when it’s their turn to present their defense this week.