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iOS Design Patents Licensed to Microsoft, Bans “Cloning”

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Here’s a kicker. According to Boris Teksler, the head of Patent Licensing & Strategy at Apple, the company has licensed design patents to Microsoft and their Surface tablet initiative. Rueters brought this fact to light while covering the heated Apple v. Samsung trial that is well underway. That patent fight between Apple and Samsung is over design patents and Apple’s accusation that Samsung is copying them.

It seems that Apple is airing this in court to prove that they have been able to build reasonable relationships with other companies, and that Samsung was being unreasonable in their refusal to license the patents from Apple.

Reuters then reports that Apple’s patent agreement with Microsoft is likely covered under the two companies’ patent cross-licensing agreement. However, there is a caveat. Apple’s agreement directly prohibits “cloning”. Microsoft cannot legally create an iPad knockoff.

It would seem that Apple and Microsoft learned their lesson from the early 90s “look and feel” fight both companies were embroiled in. Samsung hasn’t figured this out yet, and are being battered in court by some damning evidence presented by Apple. It will be interesting to watch this unfold, and personally, I find it fascinating that Microsoft and Apple, for lack of a better description, have a civil agreement and attitude towards each other these days.

This development also gives us some insight as to why Microsoft’s approach toward the tablet is so different when compared to Apple’s. Perhaps Microsoft’s design choices are a defensive move, guarding them from Apple legal repercussions, as much they were trying to innovate on the tablet concept.

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