Reuters has learned that Google CEO Larry Page and Apple CEO Tim Cook are conducting behind-the-scenes talks about numerous intellectual property matters including those at the center of ongoing patent disputes between the two companies. The talks began last week via phone and will resume in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, discussions involving lower-level executives are ongoing.
The news arrives after a jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages last Friday, finding that Samsung had indeed violated several of Apple's patents on numerous Android-based devices. Cook always said the battle wasn't about attacking Android as Steve Jobs previously vowed, but to protect Apple's properties. But now there's a fear that last week's ruling has set the stage for additional lawsuits against other Android device makers.
"The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims," Google said regarding to the Apple-Samsung verdict. "Most of these don’t relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the US Patent Office. The mobile industry is moving fast and all players -- including newcomers -- are building upon ideas that have been around for decades. We work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don’t want anything to limit that."
Yet Google and Apple are now discussing infringement issues in private. One source claims that a possible scenario currently being considered by the two parties could be an actual truce involving disputes over basic Android features and functions. However it's currently unclear if the two CEOs are discussing a broad settlement covering various disputes, or are focused on a more limited set of issues.
Google and Apple have seemingly parted ways like bitter friends after Android began to dominate the mobile market. Just recently Apple revealed its own mobile mapping service, eliminating Google Maps from iOS and Mac. The company has also removed YouTube as a pre-installed app for future version of the iPhone. The late Steve Jobs even called Android a "stolen product" and vowed to take down the popular mobile OS.
With an Android victory under Apple's belt, Google may be thinking twice about the possible similarities between its open-source OS and Apple's iOS, or rather, what OEMs do with the stock Android OS once it's licensed. The utility patent features claimed by Apple may not have anything to do with Google -- they were features added by Samsung -- but the search engine giant may need to insert specific licensing rules pertaining to Apple's patents if they're not included already. The stock Android OS does not violate Apple's patents.
Yet with the door now wide open for future lawsuits, Google itself may be at risk from lawsuits filed against it by partner OEMs if the differences aren't ironed out with Apple soon. "Theoretically [Samsung] could hold Google responsible for all of the harm that Android allegedly causes to Apple, but it's a much more difficult story to tell to a judge and, especially, a jury," noted Florian Mueller, a patent attorney. "It's also more difficult to get an injunction against someone who doesn't compete with you directly, only indirectly."
Reuters said a meeting between the two CEOs was scheduled for this Friday, but had been delayed for reasons that were unclear.