A surprising revelation from the Apple v. Samsung litigation as Apple patent licensing director Boris Teksler took the stand today to testify before a San Jose court, revealing that Apple licensed its design patents to Microsoft, but with an “anti-cloning agreement” to prevent copying of the iPhone and iPad.

To make this matter more interesting, we’re talking about essentially the same design patents that Apple is asserting against Samsung in the high-stake trial…

Reuters has the story:

Apple’s decision to license its design patents to Microsoft was consistent with its corporate strategy, Teksler said, because the agreement prohibited Microsoft from manufacturing copies.

“There was no right with respect to these design patents to build clones of any type,” Teksler said.

Apple’s decision to license its design patents to Microsoft was consistent with its corporate strategy, Teksler said, because the agreement prohibited Microsoft from manufacturing copies.

CNET follows up:

“We were clear we weren’t offering a license to everything,” Teksler said. “We had yet to discuss some what we termed ‘untouchables,’ if you will.”

Ina Fried of AllThingsD:

In general, Teksler said, Apple doesn’t license its design patents to any other company.

As for Samsung, Teksler said:

We were trying very hard to come up with an amicable resolution with Samsung. We wanted to get properly compensated for that which was infringed, and with respect to our unique user experience. That’s exactly what we were trying to do with this presentation.

Since Apple’s design and utility patents are part of the cross-licensing agreement, Microsoft cannot simply rip off the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad or the iOS software.

Not that the Windows maker would want to do that anyway as its Surface tablet has a distinctly different user interface, courtesy of Windows 8 and Metro design language from Windows Phone.

Apple in 1994 sued Microsoft over the look and feel of its Windows operating system. It had lost the high-profile case and both firms later signed a cross-licensing agreement.

What makes today’s news even more interesting is that, in Teksler’s words, he could count “on one hand” the instances Apple has licensed those patents.

Teksler also testified that Apple and Samsung met in late-2010 to resolve disputes, but to no avail.

Apple, he said, offered its design patents covering the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad, but Samsung refused to license Apple’s work so the Cupertino firm filed a lawsuit in April 2011.

Of course, Apple kept other patents related to what Teksler called the “unique user experience” close to the vest.

The look and feel of Apple’s mobile devices is one of the causes of contention between Apple and Samsung that could see the latter pay up to $2.5 billion in damages, should the court side with Apple.

Should Samsung have licensed Apple’s design patents?