Apple is often accused by the likes of Samsung that it is unwilling to license its technology to competitors, but that’s not true. In fact, Apple has licensed many of its design patents to Microsoft, under the condition of an “anti-cloning agreement” that prevents Microsoft from releasing mere doppelgangers of the iPhone and iPad. You know, like Apple is accusing Samsung of doing.
The admission came from Apple’s patent licensing director Boris Tekser, who said in court today that Apple offers many patents for licensing, with the exception of a few patents that cover iOS’s “unique user experience” which Apple is extremely protective of. These patents would cover things like iOS’s rubber band snap-back effect, which is one of the key patents in dispute in its IP trial in Samsung.
Tekster says Apple will license these patents, but only very rarely, being able to only count on “one hand” the instances where Apple licensed those patents.
It’s unclear in which capacities Microsoft is using the patents it has licensed from Apple, except that they are covered under Apple and Microsoft’s broader patent cross-licensing agreement. The implication, of course, is that if Samsung had seriously wanted to license patents from Apple, Cupertino would have been amenable, as long as they weren’t releasing clone devices. Since that’s what Samsung intended on doing anyway, though, no agreement could be reached.
Microsoft, of course, is releasing its own, would-be iPad killer in the Microsoft Surface, but presumably, Apple does not consider this a clone device, not just because of its vastly different, Metro-based operating system, but because of many of Microsoft’s additional innovations, such as the cover with built-in keyboard.
It’s like we’ve always said. It’s not that Apple doesn’t want companies like Samsung to compete. Healthy competition is good for everyone. What Apple doesn’t want is Samsung to rip their ideas off wholesale.