Report: Apple, Google CEOs in talks on resolving patent spat

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) CEO Larry Page have been holding talks on a range of patent issues, including the mobile patent disputes between their two companies, according to a Reuters report.

The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said that the pair had a phone call last week and that discussions among their lieutenants are ongoing. The two chief executives were supposed to meet Friday but the meeting has been delayed. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal also reported that Cook and Page have been holding talks.

The reports come on the heels of Apple's $1.05 billion patent-infringement win against Samsung Electronics earlier this month. That trial was widely seen as a proxy battle between Apple and Google since Samsung is the world's largest handset maker using Google's Android platform. Google's Motorola Mobility unit has recently filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission against Apple.

Interestingly, the Journal noted that Apple filed a separate lawsuit in February which contends that Google's Android operating system itself infringes on its patents. In that case Apple has sought to block sales of the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, which Samsung produced and which is sold through carriers and online through Google's Play store.

According to the Reuters report, the two companies have been talking about some kind of patent peace "involving disputes over basic features and functions" of Android. It is unclear how wide-ranging a potential intellectual property settlement would be. However, as Fortune noted, the two companies have a great deal at stake in the smartphone market and are not likely going to strike a wide-ranging patent truce in the near future.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously told his biographer Walter Isaacson that he was so incensed with what he perceived as Android's copying of the iPhone that he was willing to go to "thermonuclear war" with Google over it. Jobs called Android a "stolen product."

Apple's patent litigation strategy has been to go after Android licensees and not Google directly, although that is complicated by the fact that Motorola is now a part of Google. Apple has been slowly shedding Google services and products from its iOS devices, replacing Google's mapping application with its own proprietary software for iOS 6 and deciding to no longer offer Google's YouTube as a pre-loaded application in future versions of its iPhone.

Before Apple and Samsung's patent trial began in July, executives from the two companies met and failed to reach a settlement. Apple divulged numerous details about its iPhone development and marketing efforts during the trial in an attempt to bolster its case that Samsung had copied its design and technology.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Fortune article

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Article updated Aug. 30 with additional information.

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