Apple: our policy prohibits licensing inventions to competitors

Apple has an anti-licensing policy in place that strictly forbids licensing its inventions, sans standard-essential patents, to its competitors. That’s the gist of court documents patent blogger Florian Müeller uncovered today. He notes the upcoming hearing concerning the Apple-HTC settlement could bring some more clarity about how Apple structures licensing deals and which exceptions and carve-outs it actually imposes.

US District Court Judge Lucy Koh ordered that the patents Apple and HTC are cross-licensing as part of their settlement are to remain unsealed, though the general public won’t be able to have a peek at confidential material.

While Apple’s previous briefs did deny that its prized iPhone patents are in fact broadly licensed, Apple struck a far-reaching cross-licensing agreement with Nokia before and, as of recently, with HTC. And the plot thickens…

Apple’s general policy, per redacted court documents, warns its success is based on patented inventions and notes that “nothing will undermine its success like a ruling that competitors are free to copy its innovations as long as they are willing to pay a royalty”.

As for its touchscreen heuristics, data tapping and real-time signal processing patents, Apple “has a policy against licensing competitors to practice the three patents”.

The filing reads:

Apple is innovative to the core. Its business model is all about distinguishing its products from the competition’s. […] This business model of distinctive innovation does not work if competitors are free to make their products identical. That is why Apple has a policy against licensing [redacted].

The iPhone maker argues it presented evidence that Motorola was “cutting into its market share and diverting goodwill” and also that it has “a general policy of not licensing these patents”.


The company made no promises concerning licensing its patents, writes Apple as it cunningly points out that Motorola did pre-commit to license its own patents.

First, Apple has a general policy against licensing its inventions, particularly to competitors. Second, Motorola’s unlicensed copying of the inventions will continue to erode Apple’s market share and consumer loyalty.

Of course, it’s important to establish the difference between standard-essential patents which must be licensed to anyone on FRAND terms and proprietary patents that protect someone’s invention.

Apple seeks an injunction to stop infringement by an ardent competitor. Apple had a general policy against licensing its central technology. It had proof that it is losing market share and goodwill because of the ongoing infringement. None of its asserted patents are standard-essential.

At any rate, I have no doubt lawyers for Samsung will attempt to introduce these statements as the second U.S. lawsuit kicks into full swing.