Apple, Microsoft reveal their Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Non-aggression treaty carves up phone patents


Testimony this week in the Apple-Samsung patent trial has thrown new light on the tech world's equivalent of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact - the 1939 peace deal between Germany and the Soviets.

Apple and Microsoft have a non-aggression treaty giving each giant access to a range of each other's intellectual property. This means each company can each can focus its firepower on rivals.

"There's peace to each other's products," Apple's intellectual property licensing director Boris Teksler told the San Jose court. The cross-licensing agreement between Apple and Microsoft extends to cover some design patents, but no special rights, it appears. And according to Teksler, Microsoft has promised not to clone the iPhone or iPad.

The legal bod was speaking at a hearing in Samsung's ongoing trial with Apple. The South Korean electronics giant is fighting allegations that it copied Apple's iPhone design for its own handsets.

Both Apple and Microsoft have a common enemy: Google. But the pair have gone after the advertising behemoth by proxy rather than directly. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs regarded Google's Android operating system as a "stolen product" that imitated his iPhone user interface, and vowed to spend his "dying breath destroying Android", according to his biographer.

Microsoft has also targeted Android licensees, taking advantage of Google's naivety and posturing over intellectual property. By striking patent licensing agreements it's taken the main advantage, the zero cost, out of open-source-ish Android. According to one executive, it's cheaper to license Microsoft's platform than the nominally "free" Android. This forced Google to grow up fast, spending $12bn on something it didn't really want: Motorola Mobility.

Yet both have to play nice, too. Samsung, which uses Android in its phones, is a supplier of electronic components to Apple and a Windows Phone licensee.

Plenty of questions remain. We didn't learn from Teksler when this 21st Century Von Ribbentrop Pact was signed, or whether it covers what Teksler referred to as "untouchables". Trial Judge Lucy Koh denied a motion to make licensing deals with a dozen of Apple and Samsung's licensees public, arguing it would hamper future agreements. Samsung wanted details of Apple's proposed settlement in 2010 kept under wraps, but failed to do so.

So we now know that Apple proposed a royalty of $30 per smartphone for licensing the disputed patents, around 5 per cent per device. Samsung wanted half this rate. They couldn't agree, and here we are. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Apple dev roundup: Weather data meets privacy, and other good stuff
    No AR/VR glasses but at least RoomPlan will let you make rapid 3D room maps

    WWDC Apple this week at its Worldwide Developer Conference delivered software development kits (SDKs) for beta versions of its iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, tvOS 16, and watchOS 9 platforms.

    For developers sold on seeking permission from Apple to distribute their software and paying a portion of revenue for the privilege, it's a time to celebrate and harken to the message from the mothership.

    While the consumer-facing features in the company's various operating systems consist largely of incremental improvements like aesthetic and workflow enhancements, the developer APIs in the underlying code should prove more significant because they will allow programmers to build apps and functions that weren't previously possible. Many of the new capabilities are touched on in Apple's Platforms State of the Union presentation.

    Continue reading
  • UK competition watchdog seeks to make mobile browsers, cloud gaming and payments more competitive
    Investigation could help end WebKit monoculture on iOS devices

    The United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Friday said it intends to launch an investigation of Apple's and Google's market power with respect to mobile browsers and cloud gaming, and to take enforcement action against Google for its app store payment practices.

    "When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards," said Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, in a statement. "As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice."

    The decision to open a formal investigation follows the CMA's year-long study of the mobile ecosystem. The competition watchdog's findings have been published in a report that concludes Apple and Google have a duopoly that limits competition.

    Continue reading
  • Apple’s M2 chip isn’t a slam dunk, but it does point to the future
    The chip’s GPU and neural engine could overshadow Apple’s concession on CPU performance

    Analysis For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Apple's move to homegrown silicon for Macs, the tech giant has admitted that the new M2 chip isn't quite the slam dunk that its predecessor was when compared to the latest from Apple's former CPU supplier, Intel.

    During its WWDC 2022 keynote Monday, Apple focused its high-level sales pitch for the M2 on claims that the chip is much more power efficient than Intel's latest laptop CPUs. But while doing so, the iPhone maker admitted that Intel has it beat, at least for now, when it comes to CPU performance.

    Apple laid this out clearly during the presentation when Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies, said the M2's eight-core CPU will provide 87 percent of the peak performance of Intel's 12-core Core i7-1260P while using just a quarter of the rival chip's power.

    Continue reading
  • Workers win vote to form first-ever US Apple Store union
    Results set to be ratified by labor board by end of the week

    Workers at an Apple Store in Towson, Maryland have voted to form a union, making them the first of the iGiant's retail staff to do so in the United States.

    Out of 110 eligible voters, 65 employees voted in support of unionization versus 33 who voted against it. The organizing committee, known as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE), has now filed to certify the results with America's National Labor Relations Board. Members joining this first-ever US Apple Store union will be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

    "I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory," IAM's international president Robert Martinez Jr said in a statement on Saturday. "They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022