Samsung and Apple have prepared for what is being called the Patent Trial of the Century by failing to agree on the value of each other's patents.

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook, who took part in failed mediation talks with Samsung executives last week.

At a court-directed mediation meeting, Apple's CEO Tim Cook and Samsung Vice Chairman Choi Gee-sung and mobile chief Shin Jong-Kyun met to try and agree on the value of certain patents before both sides meet in a San Jose federal court next Monday, 30 July.

Sources speaking to Reuters said the meeting took place on Monday of last week (16 July) and one of the issues under discussion was how to value what are known as standard essential patents (SEP). These are patents which are essential to creating industry standards and are agreed on by various standards boards.

Holders of these SEPs, of which Nokia, Motorola and Samsung are the most well-known, have to abide by the terms of being declared "essential" by licensing them to third parties under what is known as fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

In essence, it prevents holders of these essential patents from holding other manufacturers to ransom if they want to licence them. Apple and Samsung both declined to comment on the specifics of the mediation, preferring to wait until the court case begins to outline their respective cases.

The court case next week will see both sides acuse the other of infringing patents relating to a range of technologies and designs of the companies smartphones and tablets.

Second meeting

The mediation last week was at least the second between top executives. A previous session in May did not produce any settlements. The mediation process has been directed by Judge Lucy Koh in an attempt to shorten the scope of the case, which is one of the most important to come before a court, in relation to the mobile phone industry.

As well as dealing with SEPs, the result of which could have a major impact on the North American mobile phone industry, the case next week will also deal with design patents. Apple has long claimed that Samsung "slavishly copied" the look of the iPhone and iPad with its series of Galaxy smartphones and tablets.

In a recent case in the UK, Judge Colin Birss threw out a similar claim, saying: "They [Samsung] do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool. The overall impression produced is different."

Samsung and Apple, the two biggest consumer technology companies in the world, are currently locked in legal battles in ten countries around the globe and earlier this week a trial relating to the use of 3G technology in Apple's iPad began in Australia.

Apple has claimed it isn't infringing Samsung's 3G patents dur to the way the 3G standard the patent relates to is being implemented. Apple admits using the 3G standard Samsung has a patent for, but not in a way which infringes the patent.