Apple CEO on legal spats: I prefer to settle

Tim Cook adds, however, that he doesn't want Apple to "become the developer for the world."

Apple CEO Tim Cook, seen here at last year's Verizon iPhone debut.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, seen here at last year's Verizon iPhone debut. Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple CEO Tim Cook said he is interested in settling patent lawsuits, as long as everyone "invents their own stuff."

Cook, speaking on the company's quarterly conference call today, expressed his desire to end the litigation that has engulfed much of the wireless industry.

"I would highly prefer to settle than to battle," he said. "But it's important that Apple not become the developer for the world. We need people to invent their own stuff."

Cook will get a chance to end some of the litigation when he sits down in the coming weeks with a high-level Samsung Electronics executive to hammer out a possible settlement. The meeting is part of an order mandated by a U.S. district court judge overseeing one of their many disputes. The willingness to pursue a rival in the courtroom illustrates just how competitive the tech industry has gotten, and how high the stakes are for the various players.

The Apple-Samsung battle is just one of many patent lawsuits taking place throughout the industry, with another fight between Google and Oracle over whether Android stole from Java occupying the courtroom over the past two weeks. Similar to the Apple-Samsung spat, a judge has ordered lawyers from both sides to start organizing meetings for potential settlement talks even as the trial date looms.

It's unclear what will happen in Apple's case. While Cook is seen as more willing to compromise than his predecessor, the late Steve Jobs, his latest comments aren't exactly going to ingratiate himself with his rivals. Calling Apple "the developer for the world" is a pretty bold slap in the face of other technology companies, all with their own vast war chest of patents.

In fact, Apple was dealt a blow when the U.S. International Trade Commission issued an initial determination that the company had infringed upon one of Motorola Mobility's patents. The ruling is preliminary and still needs to be approved by the full commission, but it's a bad sign for Apple.

Apple argued the patent in question deals with essential technology that Motorola isn't supposed to be suing over, and that a similar case in Germany had already been thrown out. The company said it planned to appeal the decision.

A loss to Motorola at this stage would hurt Apple greatly, since it would empower rival Google. Google is waiting for approval to acquire Motorola, and could use its library of patents against Apple.

If that's the case, perhaps an early settlement with one major foe could pave the way higher measure of peace in the wireless industry.

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