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Samsung and Apple mediation to start today. Will the two giants agree on cross-licensing?

May 21, 2012

While Google and Oracle are still fiercely battling it out in court in a patent infringement war whose outcome is almost impossible to predict, the Apple vs Samsung clash is about to enter a new phase. The mediation stage will start today, as it was scheduled for around three weeks, and is set to end tomorrow, hopefully with some sort of truce.

For those of you who’ve been living under a very isolated rock for a while, we should tell you that the two biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world have been on a suing spree for the last couple of years, accusing each other of patent infringement over a bunch of gadgets, including the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the iPad.

Apple was the first one to take a stab at Samsung, with allegations about several Korean products stealing iPhone’s and iPad’s minimalist design. Sammy took the punches pretty well and launched several strong counterattacks.

The two companies’ CEOs, Apple’s Tim Cook and Samsung’s Choi Gee-Sung, have previously stated that they are willing to reach a “peaceful” agreement, despite the gravity of the accusations thrown both ways. The last chance to do so seems to be the mediation session set to take place at a San Francisco courthouse today and tomorrow.

While Apple officials have been very quiet over the past few weeks or so over the entire legal spat with Samsung, a top executive in Seoul has released a statement to Reuters stressing that his company is willing to resolve differences with the company founded by Steve Jobs.

“There is still a big gap in the patent war with Apple, but we still have several negotiation options including cross-licensing” said Samsung mobile division chief JK Shin, before leaving Sammy’s headquarters to get to the United States for the mediation talks.

What is cross-licensing and what are the chances that it will end the war?

Pretty much every time we’ve talked about the Apple vs Samsung legal war, we’ve come to the conclusion that it can only end if one side decides to cave in to the demands of the other. However, JK Shin has now presented us with another solution, one that could satisfy both parties — cross licensing.

What is cross-licensing and what will such an agreement entail? According to Wikipedia, a cross-licensing agreement is “an agreement according to which two or more parties grant a license to each other for the exploitation of the subject-matter claimed in one or more of the patents each owns”. In plain words, cross-licensing means that two companies agree to give each other a license on the patents they hold.

Samsung already has a cross-licensing agreement in place with Microsoft, another tech giant that didn’t shy away from using its patent portfolio offensively. But the two companies are not competing directly, like it happens with Samsung vs Apple.

On the other hand, it’s not impossible for the legal dispute between Apple and Sammy to reach an end helped by cross-licensing. The execs of the two companies know very well that, if the war goes on, it will consume valuable financial and human resources for years to come. Also, this would be the kind of settlement that would protect the egos of both CEOs, as neither will have to admit defeat.

There you have it, boys and girls, the possible end of a humongous legal war between two of the biggest electronics companies of the 21st century. And it will all go down today, from 9:30 am San Francisco time, and possibly tomorrow, from around the same time. Can you feel the tension building up in the air?