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Apple and Samsung to meet out of court for settlement chat

Could the legal battle between Apple and Samsung have an end in sight? The two companies plan to meet to talk about a possible settlement.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab on top of Apple's iPad.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab on top of Apple's iPad.
Donald Bell/CNET

An end to what has become an ugly, complicated, and costly court battle between Apple and Samsung could be in sight.

The two companies plan to meet out of court to discuss a possible settlement to their legal fracas, which has centered on intellectual property.

In a court order issued today -- relayed by intellectual-property blog FOSS Patents -- U.S. District Court judge Lucy Koh referred the two companies to a magistrate judge settlement conference that will take place within the next 90 days.

According to the referral, both Samsung's and Apple's CEOs will be at the settlement session, as well as their general counsels.

The news follows a report last month saying top-level executives at both companies were warming to the idea of discussing "potential settlement" options.

"Apple CEO Tim Cook does not seem to share his predecessor's passion about laying all foes to waste," Bloomberg said, citing that information from an unnamed source. "Cook appears to view litigation as a necessary evil, not a vehicle of cosmic revenge."

In Walter Isaacson's authorized biography on Steve Jobs released last year, the late Apple co-founder viewed Google's Android operating system as a "stolen" product, making it a personal mission to wipe it out.

"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong," Jobs told Isaacson. "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

Apple proceeded to take aim at Android first through HTC, later expanding its efforts to Samsung, beginning with a lawsuit that accused the Korea-based technology company of copying the look, feel, and underlying technologies of the iPhone and iPad.

The legal battle is of intense interest given the business relationship between the two companies. While Apple and Samsung compete with one another fiercely for consumer dollars and market share, Samsung's components have been the backbone of some of Apple's most popular products. For example, both the processor and screen in Apple's latest iPad are Samsung-made. Samsung also supplies components for Apple's iPhone, and its Mac computer line.

As mentioned in previous coverage, Apple has struck cross-licensing agreements with foes in the past. That includes a patent deal with Microsoft as part of its investment in Apple in 1997, as well as one with Nokia in 2011 that gave the companies the option to license certain patents from one another.

Apple declined to comment beyond the filing.

Samsung sent this statement to CNET on April 19, affirming what was earlier reported: "At the direction of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Samsung and Apple have agreed to participate in a Magistrate Judge Settlement Conference. This settlement conference will take place within 90 days, with the presence of each party's chief executive officer and general counsel."

Updated at 12:23 p.m. PT April 17 with additional background.

Updated at 7:30 a.m. April 19 with statement from Samsung added to end of story.