Liquidmetal’s Apple alliance yet to bear fruit

“Liquidmetal Technologies Inc. (LQMT) has been betting on partnerships with Apple Inc. and Swatch Group AG. It hasn’t paid off yet,” Jan Schwalbe and Corinne Gretler report for Bloomberg. “The company developed a metal that’s moldable like plastic and has formed perpetual exclusivity agreements with Apple for consumer electronics products, and with Swatch for watches. While Liquidmetal has succeeded in being included in some of Swatch’s products, the Rancho Santa Margarita, California-based company is still waiting for a big break with Apple.”

“When the Apple Watch was presented on Sept. 9, Liquidmetal’s shares plunged 26 percent, the most since July 2013, because Apple didn’t say whether Liquidmetal’s technology would be incorporated in its new products. The two exclusivity agreements could spell further trouble, as the royalty-based license with Swatch for watches hinders any use in products such as an Apple Watch,” Schwalbe and Gretler report. “‘I suspect a third-party company would have to come to a legal agreement with Liquidmetal and Swatch before it could use Liquidmetal technology for a watch,’ said Rene Weber, an analyst at Bank Vontobel AG in Zurich. ‘In this area, Swatch certainly has a strong position.'”

“In May, the company extended an agreement with Cupertino, California-based Apple through February that provides the company financial and legal support for the filing of patents,” Schwalbe and Gretler report. “Liquidmetal also in May reached an agreement to settle a dispute with contract manufacturer Visser Precision Cast LLC, allowing the company to form more licenses to produce the material.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: The Apple-Liquidmetal deal is basically this: Apple contributes engineers and R&D – basically figuring out how to practically make Liquidmetal into commercial parts – and contributes their inventions back to Liquidmetal (via Crucible Intellectual Property, LLC, a Liquidmetal subsidiary) which gets to use Apple’s inventions in fields other than consumer electronics (sporting goods, aviation, medical, military, etc.). With an already-paid one-time license fee of US$20 million, Apple owns sole rights to use Liquidmetal in electronics forever via “a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercialize such intellectual property in the field of consumer electronic products.” Whenever it is reported that Apple and Liquidmetal have extend their agreement, it refers to Apple and Liquidmetal lengthening the amount of time where both companies share IP with each other via Crucible.

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    1. I guess it can be argued that a watch isn’t a consumer electronic device as it is mechanical in nature, unless of course it’s a digital watch and/or the license to Swatch provided for the eventuality of smart watches.

    1. For now, they are certainly dead since metals from which LM alloy consists of are five times pricier than aluminium. Also, the alloy itself is more expensive to make as it requires more energy to make — all clusters of crystalline metal have to be melted to make the alloy uniformly amorphous (unlike regular metals and allows where are many of such clusters and no one cares).

  1. Visser could be the big problem. It had IP that was needed to produce Liquidmetal. The agreement ended what could have been a nasty court battle if Apple had used it. One that Apple didn’t think it could win. Everyone is expecting some showy thing, like a back panel. I think they will use them in chips first. Apple would only need to use a small amount to give them a big advantage in producing small powerful chips that no one else will have. It could be how the new Apple Watch all-in-one chip is made. This could also be part of the delay in making it. 2015 may be when the agreement kicks in.

  2. I find this to be a low IQ article and that purposely conflates a mechanical movement self-winding watch with a wrist mounted computer. It is a simultaneous insult to both Omega (Swatch) and to the Apple engineers. Personally I would like to get a waterproof housing for the iWatch to trigger the iPhone camera in its waterproof case, but for safety, I would also need my Omega Seamaster Diver 300M, on my other wrist as back up… and my shark spray.

    If you watch LQMT presentation at Liolios Group Gateway Conference – you can get the link in the investors section on Liquidmetal’s website – you will see non-visser machines in the video – the same big green machines that do the plastic injection molding for the iPhone 5c (PIM).

    Listen specifically when the presenter explains MIM (metal injection molding) versus Liquidmetal Injection, which has much less mold shrinkage and what kind of parts are best left to MIM and complex parts that are best for the liquid metal process.

    Then watch the Apple Watch presentation and read everything about the digital crown of the watch. Now guess which part of the iWatch is most probably to be Liquidmetal. Omega uses Liquidmetal for “cosmetic” reasons so that the numbers on the bezel will never fade because of human touch. The ceramic bezel is bonded to the liquid metal numbers. The iWatch digital crown appears to have translucent parts bonded to the metal and the home button inside the crown, that sense finger movement, so one can scroll and zoom with an index finger touching the crown rather than using an index finger and thumb movement to actually wind the crown, which would be tiring and lead to repetitive motion injuries. If any problem would be solved best by liquidemetal versus MIM for mass production, it is a small precision part like the crown, not a phone casing.

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