Tim Cook and Choi Gee-sung to thrash out patent dispute

The CEOs of Apple and Samsung, Tim Cook and Choi Gee-sung, have agreed to hold settlement talks in a bid to resolve a patent lawsuit over smartphone and tablet technology, according to a court filing.

Apple began legal action against Samsung in the United States last year, accusing the firm of copying the design of the iPhone and iPad in its Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablets. Samsung then countersued Apple. US district judge Lucy Koh has now referred the companies to a San Francisco-based magistrate judge who will lead the talks aimed at ending the ongoing legal battle, which includes more than 20 cases in ten countries.

Apple has also failed in an attempt to dismiss a lawsuit by a group of American parents, led by attorney Garen Meguerian, over parental controls that had allowed children to buy additional services from iPhone apps. The group said that their children had downloaded games from the App Store but were then able to clock up substantial additional costs after buying additional services from within the App itself – which at the time did not require a password to authorise the sale if made within 15 minutes of the initial download.

“Apple requires its users to authenticate their accounts by entering a password prior to purchasing and/or downloading an app or buying game currency,” the court filing reads. “Until recently, however, once the password was entered, Apple permitted the user, even if a minor, to buy game currency for up to fifteen minutes without re-entering the password.”

Apple has now changed those settings, but the case will continue.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will begin a policy of not using patents as a tool to impede the innovation of others. The micro-blogging site is published a draft of its Innovator’s Patent Agreement (IPA) later this year. Adam Messinger, VP of engineering, explained that the IPA is a commitment from Twitter to its employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes.

“We will not use the patents from employees’ inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What’s more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended,” he said.

He added that, typically, engineers and designers sign an agreement with their company that irrevocably gives that company any patents filed related to the employee’s work. The company then has control over the patents and can use them however they want, which may include selling them to others who can also use them however they want.

“With the IPA, employees can be assured that their patents will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon,” said Messinger.

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