Settling secrets: Apple, Samsung may have been chatting patents for months

Apple iPhone Samsung S3
Apple and Samsung are caught up in a game of Deal or No Deal

Apple and Samsung's bitter patent disputes have been widely covered for the past few years, with the biggest blow in the case landing in Cupertino's favor last summer.

In August 2012, Samsung was ordered to pay Apple $1.05 billion (around £688m, AU$1.14b) million in damages, though that hefty price tag was dropped to a mere $450.5 million (£295m, AU$489m) earlier in 2013.

While it appeared Apple and Samsung were content (or at least resigned) to let the courts decide the fates of the various patents in question, there were apparently some secret negotiations happening behind the scenes as well.

According to new documents released by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the Cupertino and South Korean companies have been discussing potential settlements as far back as Apple's $1 billion court victory.

Close, but no settlement

In addition to the ITC documents, sources revealed to the Wall Street Journal the ongoing secret settlement discussions have been both hot and cold, though no agreement has been reached as of yet.

Based on the information available in the heavily censored ITC papers, Samsung at one point offered a broad patent cross-licensing deal to Apple, which would have ended all litigation between the two companies.

Obviously Apple didn't take the deal, but it's not very clear from the ITC's report just how seriously Apple took the offer to begin with.

Both companies spent a great deal of time talking terms between December 2012 and March 2013, with some face-to-face meetings happening in January, though by February it appears the talks had broken down.

The ITC paper mentions a March 22 proposal from Samsung to re-open talks, adding that some of its offers were still on the table, however Apple didn't respond by the time the ITC ruled.

Despite the massive amount of redactions in the report, it's clear the ITC didn't believe Samsung's offers were unreasonable, though it would seem Apple disagreed with that assessment.

Love-hate relationship

The curious thing is both Apple and Samsung continue to work together in the manufacturing process, as the South Korean company still provides chips for iOS devices.

Apple has reportedly entered into an agreement with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to craft new processors for 2014, which would all but cut Samsung out of the picture.

However, there are also reports Apple and Samsung have a deal for Sammy to create chips once again in 2015, so it's still unclear just how strong the partnership between these two smartphone giants really is at this point.

For what it's worth, a memorandum of understanding was supposedly drafted by the two companies in February, which the ITC saw as promising for a potential future deal.

"The fact that representatives for both parties were able to reach a memorandum of understanding indicates Samsung is negotiating in good faith and, to be colloquial, is playing in the same ballpark as Apple," the report read.

With all the redactions in the report, it's impossible to tell just why the possible settlement fell through, but if Apple and Samsung are still talking behind closed doors, there's always a chance the ongoing legal battles could finally come to an end.

Given how this past year has played out however, we won't be holding our breath waiting for Apple and Samsung to start getting along.