Apple and Samsung, the number one and number two in the mobile devices industry, are embroiled in litigation against each other in nine countries (plus there are some purely defensive proceedings in a tenth country, Spain) while doing a large amount of business with each other (to the tune of $8 billion per year according to some estimates/rumors). The trial of the first one of their U.S. federal lawsuits is scheduled to start in late July. They also have evidentiary hearings on their mutual claims coming up at the ITC in June.
Within 90 days, they will make another effort to settle their dispute. They will meet in a San Francisco courthouse for settlement talks that will be overseen by U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero.
This settlement effort is only semi-voluntary. Judge Lucy Koh, the federal judge presiding over the two Apple v. Samsung lawsuits in the Northern District of California, ordered the parties to comment on their availability for an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) effort. In this situation, they both had to be cooperative: if only one of them had made the CEO available, the other one would have appeared to be less than constructive.
This is what Apple and Samsung told the court a couple of hours ago on the ADR subject:
"As directed by the Court, Apple and Samsung are both willing to participate in a Magistrate Judge Settlement Conference with Judge Spero as mediator. 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."
Not much later, Judge Koh just ordered the following:
"The parties have indicated that they are willing to participate in a Magistrate Judge Settlement Conference ('MJSC'). ECF No. 873. Therefore, the parties are hereby referred to an MJSC with Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero with a 90-day deadline. 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."
A similar effort took place between Oracle and Google last fall (and again a few weeks ago) -- but now they're battling it out at a trial that started yesterday. The courts can obligate parties to meet and talk, but they can't force them to settle. That's why firm trial dates generally have a much stronger effect on the willingness of litigants to settle than court-ordered negotiations. Nevertheless, the arrival of Tim Cook and his counterpart from Samsung, Gee-Sung Choi, at a San Francisco courthouse will be a major event -- and maybe something will come out of this after all, though I'm skeptical.
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