You may remember that back in June 2011 Apple lost a patent infringement case that the Finnish handset maker Nokia had filed against the Cupertino company, resulting in an undisclosed one-time payment and ongoing royalties to Nokia for use of their patents. The Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was “very pleased” to have Apple join Nokia licensees.
However, the essentials of the contract have for the most part remained confidential. Today, we get to learn more about the terms of the deal as Samsung told a U.S. court that the patent pact is expiring on December 31, 2016…
As patent blogger Florian Müeller writes, Apple last February 2013 told a U.S. appeals court that its patent deal with Nokia was “merely a ‘provisional license’ for a limited ‘standstill’ period”.
Now we know how many years that limited standstill period relates to.
According to court documents Samsung filed in response to Apple’s recently renewed motion for a permanent injunction, the Apple-Nokia deal is is forward-looking and “covers the period from June 12, 2011 to December 31, 2016”.
“This is the first time that a publicly-accessible court filing states an expiration date for the Apple-Nokia patent deal,” Müeller wrote.
He gives us some context:
It could be that the agreement will be in force until the end of 2016 if certain requirements are met, but otherwise it would expire before. Or it could provide for some renegotiation of financial terms somewhere along the way, and in the event of a disagreement, it expires well ahead of the end of the maximum term.
It’s also possible that new products are covered only if they are launched ahead of a certain date, but then they are licensed until the end of 2016.
There’s of course nothing barring the parties from negotiating a new license deal in advance of 2016.
Last October, Samsung illegally disclosed details of the Apple-Nokia deal in an effort to improve its negotiating position. The move drew ire from Apple, whose legal sharks sought sanctions against the Galaxy maker over confidential information sharing.
The five-and-a-half-year agreement would shield Apple and Nokia from wasting energies on filing mutual patent infringement assertions in the increasingly heightening competition for the smartphone supremacy. Apple has a similar global deal in place with the Taiwanese handset maker HTC that covers a period of ten years.
I can’t escape the notion that Apple and Nokia’s forward-thinking litigation-wise came with Microsoft’s blessing. As you know, Microsoft last September acquired Nokia’s devices and services division for $7.2 billion, with the CEO Stephen Elop set to return to Microsoft to lead the Nokia unit once the acquisition formally closes.
It also came to light in August 2012 that the Windows maker signed an anti-cloning agreement with Apple, with the latter agreeing to license some of its prized iPhone design patents to Microsoft, thereby preventing the two parties from suing each other over the look and feel of their mobile hardware and software.
At the same time, Apple has seen some success asserting the iPhone and iPad design patents against Samsung in the high-stake Apple vs. Samsung trial.