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Microsoft’s Surface Licensed Apple’s Design Patents while Samsung Decided to Pass

If you already side with Apple in their current copyright infringement trial, then this news will probably only cement your opinion that Samsung was dealing dirty when they designed and released devices that bear some strong similarities to the iPhone and iPad… Turns out Apple made efforts to come to licensing agreements with Samsung back in 2010, but the negotiations apparently fell flat. What’s more, one company that DID take Apple up on the patent licenses was Microsoft—the company we all know as being behind the Surface tablet.

It’s hard to know how these patent licenses affect the positions of Microsoft and Samsung. Boris Teksler, Apple’s director of patent licensing, said that Apple’s decision to license its design patents to Microsoft was consistent with its corporate strategy. But she made one thing clear—neither company has the right to build “clones of any type.” So one has to wonder, do these mysterious “patent licenses” mean that Microsoft is free and clear with the Surface, or is Apple already brewing up another lawsuit for Apple vs. Microsoft in, say, 2013? Judging from Teksler’s statements, it will depend on whether “clone” territory is crossed…

Another question that arises—why would Samsung deny the patent portfolio license that was allegedly extended by Apple? Maybe the price was too high, or maybe, somehow, they’d drugged themselves into thinking their devices really were original and non-infringing.

There remains a lot to be soon, both as the current trial continues, and also as Microsoft enters the tablet marketplace. And while Samsung appears to be becoming increasingly cornered by the day, it’s possible that Microsoft’s work with patent licenses, Mindows Mobile, and Windows Phone 7 will help them avoid an unwelcome court date in the future.

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