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Apple, Google secret patent talks revealed, “thermonuclear” war cooling down?

August 31, 2012

The main players in the mobile environment, are Apple and Google, which are fighting a fierce battle both in carrier stores for mind, market and profit share (although Google is yet to make any real money off of Android), but also in courts where an intense Apple vs Android war rages on.

Apple has sued the main Android device makers in the business, Samsung, HTC and Motorola, which in turned filed their own patent-based counter-claims against the iPhone maker. But it never brought legal action directly against Google. And Google stayed kind-of on the sidelines, watching the conflict evolve, and helping out only in certain situations.

But since Google completed its over-priced $12.5 billion Motorola acquisition in May – a patent purchase, according to some – it also inherited Motorola’s legal battles with Apple and now the two former buddies are going to face each other in various courts, both in the U.S. and in international markets.

However, a new Reuters article reveals that Apple and Google are involved in secret patent talks at the highest level with CEOs Tim Cook and Larry Page already reported to having already had a phone conversation last week on “a range of intellectual property matters, including the mobile patent disputes between the companies.”

The two CEOs were supposed to hold a meeting on Friday, which got canceled for reasons unknown. But they are supposed to continue negotiations in the foreseeable future. Talks between lower-level officials are also “ongoing.”

Is the “thermonuclear” war between Apple and Google going to cool down? That’s hard to say, especially in view of the recent Apple win in one of its U.S. cases against Samsung. While the verdict, which awarded the iPhone maker $1 billion in damages, can, and will, be appealed, it’s not likely for Samsung to obtain a complete overturn. This sets a dangerous precedent for any Android device maker that enters the sights of Apple, which could explain these patent talks between CEOs.

Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder and former CEO, made it more than clear that it wants to fight Android with everything it’s got, calling it a “stolen product.” But will Tim Cook follow that direction now that Apple has the upper hand in these legal proceedings?

More importantly, should Apple and Google (Motorola) settle the dispute between them, how will that affect the ongoing cases between Apple, on one hand, and HTC and Samsung on the other hand?

Both HTC and Samsung lost in court against Apple, but both companies are determined to continue the fight. Will that be possible once Apple and Google would come to terms?

Let’s not forget that Google somewhat distanced itself from Samsung when hearing the verdict in the U.S. trial, basically saying that its Android OS hasn’t really infringed any Apple patent, and that the trial is mostly about Samsung’s infringement. On the other hand, Google can’t really fool anyone that has been closely following these Apple vs Samsung proceedings. The Nexus S (the second-generation Nexus handset) was also found to be infringing in this trial, while the Galaxy Nexus (the third Nexus handset) is part of a second U.S. Apple vs Samsung trial, and has been temporarily barred from selling in the region – that decision has been stayed pending an Apple appeal.