ATD: Samsung could have licensed Apple patents in 2010

Sitting through a patent trial day after day is a tough assignment for AllThingsD's Ina Fried, as today's technical testimony led the judge to inquire of the jury if anyone needed caffeine. But the flip side of the eyelid-drooping legal process is the occasional scoop. Tonight ATD reports that Samsung had an opportunity to license Apple patents at a per-device fee way back in 2010.

Apple executives had told Samsung brass that the Korean company's phones and tablets were infringing Apple IP in the summer of 2010. Keeping in mind that Samsung was (and remains) a key Apple parts supplier, the US company apparently swallowed hard and made an offer to cross-license relevant patents in October 2010. "Samsung chose to embrace and imitate Apple's iPhone archetype," reads Apple's presentation to Samsung. "Apple would have preferred that Samsung request a license to do this in advance. Because Samsung is a strategic supplier to Apple, we are prepared to offer a royalty-bearing license for this category of device" (emphasis Apple's).

Samsung would have owed royalties of $30 on each affected phone and $40 per tablet (dipping to $30 per over 2 years), with some steep discount options. Samsung's entire line of touchscreen phones would have come under the proposed agreement, including Symbian and Bada phones in addition to Android-based units. Apple estimated the total 2010 license payments at US$250 million, noting that "[these] figures pale in comparison to Apple-Samsung's balance-of-trade."

You can read the whole deck here, and it's fascinating. Given the high costs of litigation, expert witnesses and adverse publicity from the ongoing dispute -- balanced out with the advantage of being free and clear, worldwide, from injunctions and patent challenges from Apple -- it all makes one believe that maybe Samsung should have thought longer and harder about taking the deal. (For a giggle, check out slide 17 -- as Mark Gurman points out, Apple's "iPhone 4" looks a lot like it's showing the screen of an original iPhone instead...)

Photo by kasia | flickr cc