Apple extends Liquidmetal sole rights until 2014
Apple has secured exclusive rights to Liquidmetal Technologies' IP, extending sole access to the company's unique metal until February 2014.
The original $20m agreement expired in February 2012. However, a new filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shows the date has been extended by two more years.
Liquidmetal is an alloy that is strong and resistant to corrosion and scratches, and has a similar moulding ability to that of thermoplastics.
Inventor of the alloy, Dr Atakan Peker, last month told Business Insider that it would cost Apple between $300m and $500m and three or more years of work to develop a product based on Liquidmetal tech.
So far, Apple has only used Liquidmetal in the Sim card ejector tool for the iPhone 3G.
Peker reckons that kind of doohickey will be where Apple uses Liquidmetal in future: "I think it's unlikely that Liquidmetal casing will be used in [laptop or phone casings] in the near term. It's more likely in the form of small component such as a hinge or bracket," he said. ®
@Giles - Sigh, an urban myth, I'm afraid... The Russians and the US both used pencils to start with, but a conductor, which is prone to fragmenting into powder isn't a good thing in a zero-g environment, particularly if it's wrapped in a fuel.
Both Russia and the US use the Fischer space pen, which was developed by a separate company because of the rather obvious problems with the pencil.
I fear T-Unit had it about right in the original SIM ejector non-story comments:
"Are Apple doing it on purpose? It almost feels like they are laying technology traps just so they can keep floating on a sea of law suits. I fully expect some company to make real, beneficial use of this tech somewhere down the line and Apple to spring out and sue them. Perhaps I'm just a big cynical Sally"
Cynical? Or realistic and prescient.
IIRC, Apple have to actually use the licensed technology to keep the licence. To use it in, say, a phone casing, they have to develop new manufacturing processes, and test them exhaustively - a non-trivial task.
Maybe to stop anyone else using it?
Re: R&D and payback
Prior art applies to patents, not licenses. (obviously if the patent was ruled void, the license would be too). Whether or not Vertu a) used the same material that b) processed in the same way as that which Apple have licensed, I don't know. But had it been licensed to Vertu for a limited period (and there was another phone manufactuer who used it too, but seemingly only for models released in Russia) and that license expired, Apple would be able to hold the exclusive license for consumer electronics.
Apple's agreement doesn't prevent, say, a manufacturer of medical equipment using the stuff.
That the stuff is easy to work with is telling. The Vertu could have been using the same stuff but processed in a trickier, more expensive way. And being a Vertu, it would spin that into a virtue - as it does its sapphire screen and jewelled button bearings.