Is the war on Android about to come to an epic conclusion? It's possible. On Tuesday U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who has been presiding over the Apple vs. Samsung lawsuits in the Northern District of California, referred Apple and Samsung to a San Francisco-based magistrate judge after Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung CEO Choi Gee-sung agreed to participate in settlement talks.
Judge Koh, seemingly annoyed with the bickering between the two parties, ordered both companies to comment on their availability for an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) effort. In this situation, neither party is required to attend the negotiations. However if one agrees to send a CEO and the other doesn't, the latter party appears to be "less than constructive."
"As directed by the Court, Apple and Samsung are both willing to participate in a Magistrate Judge Settlement Conference with Judge Spero as mediator," a Monday court filing reads. "At Apple, the chief executive officer and general counsel are the appropriate decision-makers, and they will represent Apple during the upcoming settlement discussions. At Samsung, the chief executive officer and general counsel are also the appropriate decision-makers, and they will represent Samsung during these settlement discussions."
As indicated, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero will reside over the talks. Both companies' general councils will also participate in the talks. However, there's also a 90-day deadline in place, so both parties can't take another year to plot a counter-attack.
Over the past year, Apple and Samsung have been fighting over hardware and software patents relating to smartphone and tablet technology, sparked by the release of Samsung's original Android-base Galaxy Tab tablet. In a lawsuit filed back in April 2011, Apple claimed that the entire Galaxy line "slavishly" copies the iPhone and iPad.
Samsung naturally retaliated with a counter-suit, and at one point even tried to say that 2001: A Space Odyssey director Stanley Kubrick actually designed the first tablet. Overall, the "war on android" has cost millions upon millions of dollars, and has spread across 20 cases and ten countries, the first of which will reside in Judge Koh's courtroom this July. Hearings on their claims with the ITC are set for June.
Last last month there were reports that Apple might be giving up on its "thermonuclear war" against Android, a war which the late Steve Jobs openly declared just before his death in October 2011. People close to the anti-Android crusade claimed that top-level executives at both Apple and Samsung had communicated a desire to negotiate settlement options. They said Cook doesn't have the same vengeful passion to lay waste to all Apple foes.
"You f–king ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off. Grand theft," Steve Jobs reportedly told his authorized biographer, Walter Isaacson, adding that he would "spend my last dying breath" and "every [Apple] penny to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this."
Jobs said that the litigation with component supplier Samsung was meant to communicate an unmistakable message to Google. But it looks as if the war is coming to an end with everyone still standing on both sides, and no mutant-creating nuclear fallout.