Apple, Samsung CEOs to Meet for Mano a Mano Settlement Talks
The CEOs of Apple and Samsung will meet in person to discuss settling one of the many patents lawsuits between them. While it's impossible to predict the outcome of the talks, said attorney Steven J. Henry, "the judge knows from experience, however, that CEO-CEO conversations can sometimes lead to surprising deals that could happen no other way."
04/18/12 11:00 AM PT
The heads of Apple and Samsung will meet in person to discuss a possible truce regarding one battle in their ongoing patent war, as directed by Federal Judge Lucy Koh.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung chief Gee-sung Choi, along with their respective general counsels, will meet face to face to attempt to narrow the case, which was filed in California, or reach a settlement before a trial. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero will mediate the discussions. Neither side has indicated when or where the talks will take place.
Competition between the two device makers is fierce, and the rivalry has resulted in a number of patent infringement lawsuits in courtrooms around the globe. Apple claims that various Samsung smartphones and its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet infringe on some of its design and technological patents. Apple waged injunction battles against Samsung products worldwide but has found only limited success in blocking the sales of the South Korean devices. It briefly won an injunction in Australia, but that was eventually lifted.
Samsung has fired back at Apple on the intellectual property front, alleging that Apple is infringing on Samsung's wireless communications patents.
Neither Apple nor Samsung responded to our requests for comment on the story.
Going Head to Head
Ordering settlement talks isn't out of the ordinary, especially in cases of this magnitude, said Steven J. Henry, IP attorney at Wolf Greenfield.
"This avoids the issue that some parties wrestle with about appearing weak by being the first to suggest settlement," he told MacNewsWorld.
Although settlement talks often only include the legal teams of both sides, the fact that Cook and Choi will be present has lent the discussions an extra degree of magnitude, said Adam L.K. Philipp, founder of Aeon Law.
"The CEOs showing up is an indication that the settlement talks are serious and the decision-makers are at the table for negotiations," Adam L.K. Philipp, founder of Aeon Law, told MacNewsWorld.
Stakes Are High
The possibility of an injunction as a result of any patent suit could cause massive pain for either company's bottom line. But Apple is also a Samsung customer, complicating legal issues and making a settlement more appealing for both sides, said Philipp.
"Samsung is one of Apple's main suppliers, so they are motivated to mend fences," he said.
However, that doesn't mean that the discussions between the two sides won't automatically lean one way or the other, said Henry.
"Nobody has a clear advantage or disadvantage in these last-ditch settlement meetings," said Henry. "Surprises are rare. But both sides are busy looking at all the weaknesses in their cases as they move toward trial, and recognition of those weaknesses, along with the ability to control the outcome rather than turning it over to an unpredictable jury, has motivated many settlements."
Samsung has shown a willingness to settle -- in the form of licensing agreements -- in another patent case last year with Microsoft. But Apple and Microsoft are companies in different financial positions, and it's not smart to assume that Apple will act just like Microsoft did, said Henry. It's impossible to predict which way the decisions will turn.
"Given Apple's large patent portfolio, market share and mania about its image as an innovator, I seriously doubt that it will follow Microsoft's lead," he said.
"There is no conclusion to be drawn with respect to either party's willingness to settle, possible terms, or the probability of settlement," Henry added. "The judge knows from experience, however, that CEO-CEO conversations can sometimes lead to surprising deals that could happen no other way."