Judge Orders Apple, Samsung CEOs to talk turkey

As Silicon Valley’s patent war continues to rage, a federal judge has ordered Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung CEO Gee-sung Choi to a face-to-face mediation session  to try to settle their differences over smartphone technology.

Federal Judge Lucy Koh, in an order filed in San Jose Federal District Court Tuesday, gave the two companies a 90-day deadline to appear at a settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero.

“As the parties have indicated in their joint statement, the chief executive officer and general counsel of Apple and the chief executive officer and general counsel of Samsung shall appear and participate at the MJSC,” Koh’s order states.

While the lawsuit between Apple v Samsung doesn’t focus on Google, Apple’s action against the Korean smartphone manufacturer is widely seen as a proxy war against Google’s Android mobile operating system, which Google essentially gives 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 more importantly, Android is Google’s beachhead in an Internet that is increasingly going mobile.

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 from going to trial. (Festivities kicked off Monday in Google v Oracle trial in a federal courtroom in San Francisco, and continued Tuesday as Ellison took the stand and said Oracle had considered buying Blackberry Maker Research in Motion or Palm, and even building its own Java phone).

Given Steve Jobs’ famous oath to destroy Android, it’s hard to know whether Tim Cook would be more conciliatory than the late Apple demi-god.

Google “ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off. Grand theft,” Jobs famously swore in Walter Isaccson’s biography. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this.”

It will be interested to see whether Judge Koh’s attempt at reconciliation can ward of mutually assured destruction.


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