Assumptions that Apple uses its patent portfolio to strongarm rivals into costly, time-wasting revisions of hardware and software, rather than as a way to milk them of cash, may have to be reconsidered with the news that the Cupertino company has licensed out at least one of its UI elements. In fact, Apple apparently licensed an iOS “scrollback” feature to both Nokia and IBM, according to heavily-redacted legal documentation shared with The Verge, and indeed even offered a similar deal to Samsung back in November 2010.
The “scrollback patent – number 7,469,381 - details the distinctive chequerboard background seen when you pan beyond the currently rendered extent of a webpage in a browser. The same patent has been used in Apple’s subsequent legal cases against Samsung’s Galaxy range of devices, and was part of the case the Cupertino company’s lawyers had presented in an attempt to secure a preliminary injunction in the US. That sales ban request was rejected last week, with the judge claiming Apple hadn’t sufficiently demonstrated that Samsung would not be able to overturn one or more of the patents it was said to have infringed.
It’s suggested that Apple licensed the “scrollback” concept to Nokia back in July, when the two companies settled their ongoing legal action with a cross-licensing deal along with Apple paying its Finnish rivals unspecified royalties.
As to why Samsung failed to license the technology back in late 2010, that’s currently unclear. Steve Jobs himself is said to have opened negotiations between the two companies, but talks broke down despite the two being deeply reliant on each other in the component supply chain. It’s possible Apple simply demanded too much money in return for use of the “scrollback” tech, or Samsung balked at other concessions insisted on as part of the deal, such as Apple continuing to allegedly ignore the Korean firm’s 3G patents.