Apple, Samsung partial truce shows that even strong disputes often can be settled

“The ultimate goal of the litigation was never really achieved,” Attorney Michael Sandonato said.

There may not yet be peace in the Middle East, but the patent war between Apple and Samsung over smartphone technology has been halted – at least outside of the United States.

"Apple and Samsung have agreed to drop all litigation between the two companies outside the United States," the two companies stated, as reported by InsideCounsel."This agreement does not involve any licensing arrangements, and the companies are continuing to pursue the existing cases in U.S. courts."

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The news is being welcome by those who watch the cases.

“This may well lead to a truly global settlement,” Michael Sandonato, who chairs the Electronic and Computer Technologies practice group at Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto, told InsideCounsel in an interview.

Litigation between the companies took place in such locations as: South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom. There is believed to be a reasonable chance that the U.S. cases could be settled as well, but not right now.

When reviewing the legal battle between the two companies, Sandonato, a former Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar at Columbia Law School, noted that, “The ultimate goal of the litigation was never really achieved.” That related to market share.

The legal conflict is a reminder to general counsel at other companies, whether in technology or other fields, how important it is, when embarking on a major enforcement campaign, to remember to delineate what the goals are and how to achieve them, Sandonato advised.

He points out that the case illustrates how expensive patent litigation can be, too. And he says that in patent litigation there seems to always be a chance for a settlement, especially when the dispute is about money. The chance for a settlement is less likely when the issues relate to other factors, such as market share.

It is noteworthy, too, that Google has stayed out of the conflict, preferring to watch on the sidelines as Samsung, which uses Google’s technology, fought it out with Apple. That is likely to remain the situation. “Google will stay out of it,” Sandonato said. Google makes the Android operating system used in Samsung’s phones and tablets.

Looking back on the events over the past few years, the Apple-Samsung case was a “war” that is “almost unique,” Sandonato said.

But the truce is certainly a positive sign.

“It definitely represents a scaling-back of this long and sometimes bitter fight, and it may or may not be an indicator of something broader and more definitive,” Sandonato said. “Significantly, there are no licensing agreements, and the battles in the U.S. courts will continue, at least for now. On the other hand, the Apple-Samsung war has had surprisingly little impact on market share and what is left of the U.S. cases is largely about money, so this partial de-escalation might be setting the stage for negotiations that will lead to a complete resolution. Only time will tell.”

Contributing Author

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Ed Silverstein

Ed Silverstein is a veteran writer and editor for magazines, websites and newspapers. A graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he has won several...

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