Reuters is reporting that Google’s CEO Larry Page and Apple CEO Tim Cook have been involved in “behind-the-scenes conversations about a range of intellectual property matters.” Like Russia and the US during the cold war, Reuters says the “two companies are keeping the lines of communication open at a high level.”
The article suggests the discussions started before the recent Apple victory over Samsung in the much-watched US patent trial. That litigation was widely thought to be a proxy fight against Google-Android. And many assumed that direct Apple-Google litigation was likely in its wake (although it’s already in process via Motorola).
Unlike Steve Jobs and his now infamous “Thermonuclear War” remark toward Google, current Apple CEO Cook went on the record saying that he’d “highly prefer to settle” than continue to litigate cases. Nonetheless, the Samsung legal dispute continues with a potential appeal in the US case and other cases in countries around the world still in process.
Apple’s aggressive patent litigation and Microsoft’s (and Nokia’s) efforts to obtain licensing fees from Android handset makers have largely been the drivers of what might be called IP inflation and the intense interest in patent portfolios in the past two years. Google’s own $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility was partly a defensive move to gain access to Motorola’s IP.
There have also been a number of discussions recently about how Samsung may now work more closely with Microsoft and Windows Phone 8 in reaction to the recent US patent verdict. Samsung has also reportedly promised to sue Apple the minute an LTE-supporting iPhone hits the market. The iPhone 5 (expected to be announced in a couple of weeks) is likely to have LTE support.
A comprehensive settlement between Google and Apple would probably cheer markets (and fanboys) and help put aside much of the uncertainty now hanging over the smartphone world, in the wake of the Apple-Samsung trial. However a settlement between the companies is not a forgone conclusion.
Image credit: Original source unknown; image of Nixon and Breshnev republished in The Guardian