As Silicon Valley's patent wars rage, a federal judge has ordered the CEOs of Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. to a face-to-face mediation session to try to settle their differences over smartphone technology.
Federal Judge Lucy Koh, in an order filed Tuesday in District Court in San Jose, gave the two companies 90 days to hold a settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero, attended by Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung CEO Gee-Sung Choi.
"As the parties have indicated in their joint statement, the chief executive officer and general counsel of Appleand the chief executive officer and general counsel of Samsung shall appear and participate" at the mediation session, Koh's order states.
Apple sued Samsung last April, claiming Samsung's Galaxy phones and Galaxy Tab tablet computers infringed patents and the trademarked look and shape of the iPhone and iPad, and that the Android-powered devices "slavishly" copied Apple's popular mobile devices. After Samsung counter-sued Apple, claiming the Cupertino, Calif., company infringed on its technology patents, the two tech stock giants have plunged into a global intellectual property battle.
The case is expected to go to trial in July. Legal experts said there's no way to know whether the summit meeting later this spring means a settlement is at hand, but that getting the two CEOs together could change the dynamic of the conversation.
"It's a different situation to have two lawyers who are hired to argue meet, than to have these two leaders in technology, these two kind of giants. It's a different conversation," said Colleen Chien, a law professor at Santa Clara University who specializes in intellectual property law.
The Apple vs. Samsung suit doesn't overtly focus on Google, but Apple's action against the Korean smartphone manufacturer is widely seen as a proxy war against Google's Android mobile operating system, which runs on Samsung's devices and has surpassed Apple's iOS as the world's most popular mobile operating system.
With Google already enmeshed in a battle with Oracle in federal court in San Francisco over the intellectual property rights to Android, the Apple-Samsung battle represents a kind of second battle front against Android. Apple has also filed patent-infringement suits against Android-phone makers HTC and Motorola Mobility, which is being acquired by Google.
Google essentially gives the Android operating system away to phone manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and Motorola _ a direct affront to Apple's business model. Google indirectly profits from Android through searches made from Android devices, as well as content sold through its Google Play store for those tablets and phones.
But perhaps more importantly for Google, Android represents a beachhead in an Internet that is increasingly migrating from desktop to mobile.
Given Steve Jobs' famous oath to destroy Android _ "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go to thermonuclear war on this," Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson _ it's hard to know whether Cook will be more conciliatory than the late Apple founder.
A similar judicial tete-a-tete last year between Google CEO Larry Page and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison over Android failed to prevent Oracle's suit against Google over Android from going to trial this week.
"If Apple feels their patents are rock-solid, as does Samsung, I don't exactly know what will come out of" the mediation session, said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, who has followed Apple closely for decades. "At the moment, Apple has not shown they are willing to have any give or take on this issue, and it doesn't appear Samsung is willing to have any give or take."