Apple licensed its prized design patents to Microsoft with an “anti-cloning” agreement

By , Aug 13, 2012

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?

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  • jose castro

    ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    • http://www.facebook.com/devnath.devonic Devnath Devonic

      Don’t comment for the sake of commenting

      • Brrriiiaaallliiiaaannnttt

        Let me translate, ‘Samsung is totally screeeeeeeeeeeeeewed! <;)

      • jose castro

        yep and thanks for the translation hahahaha

  • http://profiles.google.com/phrenytz Carlos Gomes

    This will be important to the Sammy VS Apple trial.

  • http://twitter.com/Pitchy Pitchy

    I have to give it to Microsoft, their Surface tablet with keyboard is looking very very sharp. I love Windows 8 so far and if the Surface tablets integrate with my desktop version of 8, then I will definitely pick one up. I will be one of the crazy people with multiple tablets. I am already planning on a Nexus 7 or an Asus Transformer with keyboard dock… and now I want that Surface tablet. I love my iPad, but it would be nice for it to have some friends in the diversity market :D

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=604885391 Richard Borkovec

      The Surface Pro is Windows 8 Pro on a tablet :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

    All companies in all industries copy each other. It is a fact of business-life. The latest is that supposedly AT&T copied Verizon on their shared data plan. In actuality, it is not clear who copied who. AT&T mentioned over two years ago they were considering this option. That Verizon beat them to market is just business-as-usual. Go to any grocery store. Look at famous brand name can of whatever. Now look at the off-brand. Sometimes they have striking similarities in packaging design. Next question.

    • Brrriiiaaallliiiaaannnttt

      1. Shared data plan has nothing to do with design
      2. If you are Campbell soup, you should be able to have a design patent on your label, and other soup companies should respect that, and you should be able to sue if they copy your label to confuse customers into buying their crap soup thinking it is Campbell’s. Next Comment…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

        “1. Shared data plan has nothing to do with design”

        Maybe if you read what i wrote instead of jumping to comment, you’d understand that I was using that as an example.

        “2. If you are Campbell soup, you should be able to have a design patent on your label, and other soup companies should respect that, and you should be able to sue if they copy your label to confuse customers into buying their crap soup thinking it is Campbell’s. Next Comment… ”

        The fact that obviously an off-brand would not have the same label, renders that entire statement useless. And blatantly putting your name on a product that’s not yours is copyright and trademark infringement, not a design infringement. Next sarcastic comment…

      • Brrriiiaaallliiiaaannnttt

        Sarcastic comment, hmmmm, let me think, actually your pic with those absurd sunglasses say it all…LOL…just playin’, but you have to realize that your original post instigated my original response, and your next one instigated this response (Karma I guess)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

        The fact that you said sunglasses were absurd makes me Lol.

        Don’t worry man, I can take a joke. I may be a “Troll” of sorts, but it’s comments like that one that make me glad I know people like you that comment on iDB. Haha

      • Brrriiiaaallliiiaaannnttt

        Touché! <;)

      • http://twitter.com/Pitchy Pitchy

        Label is one thing, but pretending that only Campbell can use round cans is ludicrous. It became beneficial to all soup companies to use a standard size can because it makes it easier for grocers to stock them and to use the can holder displays.

        Samsung did not copy Apple’s labels or packaging. If consumers cannot read what they are buying then that’s not Apple or Samgung’s fault. If Samsung started putting an Apple logo and a copy of an iPad on their box to trick people into thinking they are buying an iPad… then you might be on to something, but since they do not… well then, you’re not.

    • http://twitter.com/juanr1vargas Juan R Vargas

      Did the patent it genious?

  • http://twitter.com/IamYardvybz Daniel Hall

    Yes they should’ve, b4 apple created the iPhone in 07 no 1 had the design or technology they invented by all means they were the 1st thinking outside the box and change our smartphone experience… They patented their hard work so its fair for samsung to pay them becuz samsung didn’t have or was using the design/feel of iPhone n iOS b4

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

      Actually, Samsung technically created the first “Tablet”, go google the Samsung Photo Frame that came out in 2006, 4 years before the first iPad. Obviously Apple copied the design, so not everything from Apple is original as you think it is. The Original Galaxy S was a copy of the iPhone, but Apple only got butthurt after the Galaxy S 2, which by then was Apple’s primary competition. Samsung is Apple’s only threat right now, which is the only reason Apple is suing them for a product ban. I’m still waiting for the day Ford makes it to where you can only buy Ford made cars because the rest are banned for patent infringement…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=604885391 Richard Borkovec

        Microsoft unveiled the first tablet in 2001, it just never took.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

        While this may be true, iPad looks nothing like it. Haha ;)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=604885391 Richard Borkovec

        No, but they did have the overall form factor first. The tech back then made it impossible to be as thin as it is now.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/2YKR7KR34DIBCHCJVHL5SCFWZY ronjiedotcom

        Holey shoot, I have an IKEA photo frame (that can change photos) that my mother bought in the 1980’s that looks exactly like all these tablets. IKEA probably invented the tablet / photo frame concept!

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/2YKR7KR34DIBCHCJVHL5SCFWZY ronjiedotcom

        Also, yes, the Apple v. Samsung jury decided that Samsung’s Galaxy tablets did not infringe on the Apple iPad’s design patents and so on.

  • goofygreek

    Is it just me, or do all those tablets look the same hardware wise? I mean, they all have rounded corners, black frame, almost the same size screen. How is the surface tab not a “clone”.

    • Impeach Obama

      they look like typical TVs also

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/2YKR7KR34DIBCHCJVHL5SCFWZY ronjiedotcom

      i think it’s 4 things. first is the look and feel of the software. second, i think having that white windows logo that heavily contrasts against the black bezel (whereas for apple, they almost always want a uniform/symmetric look in their designs). then, it being primarily intended to be landscape instead of portrait. plus they used magnesium something that is of a dark gray tint, while apple is heavily into aluminum that is more silvery.