Although it is widely believed that Apple refuses to license its patents to competing companies, it turns out that’s a huge misconception. In fact, the company licenses a patent covering iOS touch-based scrolling to the likes of IBM and Nokia, and it offered the same deal to rival Samsung, who wasn’t at all interested. If it had taken Apple up on the offer, however, it could have spared the Korean company a whole load of trouble in court.
Both IBM and Nokia have paid Apple for the use of U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381, entitled “List Scrolling and Document Translation, Scaling, and Rotation on a Touch-Screen Display.” The agreement was disclosed in a court filing for Apple’s current legal battle with Samsung, and although the disclosure was removed from documents that were made public, The Verge has obtained a copy of the original filing.
The patent covers the fancy scrolling we’ve all grown to love in iOS devices which shows a background texture when a user scrolls beyond the dimensions of a certain page. You can see the feature for yourself by simply loading up a website in Safari and scrolling too far towards the bottom — instead of just stopping, you can see the grey background behind the page before it bounces back.
The patent was used by Apple in its bid to have Samsung’s devices banned in certain territories. The Cupertino company reportedly offered a license on the patent to Samsung in November last year as part of a settlement between the two companies, but unlike IBM and Nokia, Samsung chose not to license the patent.
Apple hasn’t just used the patent against Samsung either; it has also used it in a lawsuit against HTC. However, according to legal expert Nilay Patel, Apple showed a willingness to negotiate with rival companies before the courtroom battles by offering the patent out for licensing:
Offering up a distinctive software feature covered by a strong patent indicates a level of willingness to negotiate that we simply haven’t heard from Apple in the past — it’s a far cry from Steve Jobs telling his biographer that he was willing to go “thermonuclear war” on Google and Android OEMs for infringing Apple’s patents.
That’s in stark contrast to an anecdote that features in Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, in which Steve recalls a conversation with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Having vowed to “destroy” Android, Steve told Schmidt, “If you offer me $5 billion, I don’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.”