Apple and Microsoft have cross patent deal, keeps the lawyers away

For those who are not aware, Apple and Samsung are currently fighting it out in the courts because Apple has accused Samsung of copying its designs. While it is up to the courts and a jury to decide if Samsung did blatantly copy Apple's designs and software, during the debates word surfaced that Apple has licensed some patents to Microsoft (and vice-versa)

Reuters posted up that during the trial, Apple patent licensing director Boris Teksler, revealed during his testimony that Apple and Microsoft entered into an agreement that contained an anti-cloning agreement. The agreement prevents Microsoft from churning out exact copies of the iPad/iPhone which, as you can guess, is what Apple is accusing Samsung is doing, but the agreement does allow Microsoft to use its patents outside of this endeavor. 

The trial indicates that Apple tried to ink a deal with Samsung in 2010 but they could not come to an agreement. After talks broke down, the lawsuite against Samsung was filed by Apple and the result is the court case going on today. 

Another source, Cnet, claims that the statements (quoted by Reuters) were part of a cross-licensing deal which gave Microsoft access to Apple's patents and Apple access to Microsoft's IP. This seems more plausiable as the two companies have been working together for sometime and their relationship benefits significantly from cross-patent licensing. CNet states:

Of note, Teksler said that Apple's long-running cross-licensing deal with Microsoft allowed the Windows maker access to all the patents in this case, including the design patents. With that said, there are specific rules in place with that deal to keep the two sides in check so that they don't make what Teksler referred to as a "clone" product.

"There's a clear acknowledgment that there's no cloning," he said.

Whatever way you want to look at it, Apple and Microsoft have agreed to terms to leverage each others intellectual property with an anti-cloning clause. The deal is not surprising but why Samsung was unwilling to work with Apple (or was it Apple unwilling to work with Samsung) will hopefully be revealed when this court case comes to a close. 

Source: Reuters | CNet

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What Samsung's lawyers need to do is relate to the days of old when there was those rectangle keypunch cards with holes in them. One company made the cards and IBM came out with one identical to it except IBM just cut one small upper right hand corner off and IBM won their case. Small differences can win or loose a case.

It also has to do with how specific a patent you make..

These days design patents are a vague as they can get away with.. "back in the day" they were much more specific.

compare two mature companies to the google/samsuing clone and re-badge engineering approach to everything.

goes to show in its quest for marketshare, google set the example: it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

this is fascinating stuff. I think the only next best thing will be google's inevitable anti-trust trial over android and google. it will be a new millennium rehash of the windows product bundling trial....but I think this time we'll see google, aka MSFT 2.0 split into little harmless parts.

Good deal for Microsoft. They are already smart enough not to rip off Apple's designs, and now they get access to some patents. This is a class example of how companies can work together.

Astra.Xtreme said,
This is a class example of how companies can work together.

Yes, but it only works if you have a war chest big enough to get the other party interested in cross-licensing instead of just trying to hurt your competing products as much as they can.

billyea said,
If this didn't exist, they'd probably have sued each other into oblivion by now. It's only practical.
If they had no patent deal, Apple wouldn't exist.

Apple and Microsoft have long had a patent sharing agreement, which benefits both sides greatly. It's probably the next best thing to having no patents, given that both sides make OS's, some hardware, etc.. it lets each side take some of the best ideas from the other without worrying about huge legal fights.

FoxieFoxie said,
MS and Apple are good friends, their iCloud even uses Windows

This is partially true.
iCloud -a you know- is still in Beta, and Apple is using Azure's Content Delivery Network capability.
However, Apple's new $500 million North Carolina data center is running a combination of Mac OS X, IBM/AIX, Sun/Solaris, and Linux systems (, so unless they use that brand new data center for something else, iCloud is probably running on the latter.