Why does Apple keep extending their partnership with Liquidmetal?

“Apple Inc. recently extended its agreement with Liquidmetal Technologies to retain the rights to the unique metal alloy that Apple requires for its production processes,” Zacks writes for Yahoo Finance.

“Per the agreement, Liquidmetal contributes its developed or acquired technology to a special purpose subsidiary that exclusively licenses the technology to Apple,” Zacks writes. “The initial agreement was signed on Aug 5, 2010 and later extended on Jun 15, 2012. Another extension was announced on May 17, 2014, which was valid til Feb 5, 2015. Now Liquidmetal has extended the deal til Feb 5, 2016.”

“Liquidmetal is an amorphous and non-crystalline material, with some interesting properties. The metal is almost 2.5 times stronger than titanium and about 1.5 times harder than stainless steel,” Zacks writes. “Media reports suggest that Apple might be silently developing some internal device components from these bulk amorphous alloys as the company already has some valuable production patents in place… Last year, Apple had disclosed that it would be deploying a diverse range of materials for its production processes. However, in the absence of any official announcement, we can only speculate.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Something must be promising for these continued extensions unless Apple’s just trying to throw off competitors, force rivals to spend money on R&D or something.

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.” Every time we hear of Apple and Liquidmetal extending their agreement, it refers to Apple and Liquidmetal lengthening the amount of time where both companies share IP with each other via Crucible.

SEE ALSO:
Apple extends Liquidmetal exclusivity deal through February 2016 – June 23, 2015
Two new Liquidmetal patent filings from Apple revealed; list watch and jewelry among potential uses – April 23, 2015
Liquidmetal’s Apple alliance yet to bear fruit – September 30, 2014
Apple’s new Liquidmetal-related patent sparks speculation – July 7, 2014
Apple patents method for embedding sapphire displays in LiquidMetal device chassis – May 27, 2014
Liquidmetal-Visser agreement paves the way for more rapid adoption of amorphous metal manufacturing – May 21, 2014
Apple extends Liquidmetal exclusivity deal through February 2015 – May 21, 2014

25 Comments

    1. Journalists have no clue how long it takes to develop a new technology around a new form of a new material with such difficult processing technology.

      The material is not quite ceramic and not quite metal and behaves differently than both and must be injected into a mold in ways specifically suited to the properties of the material.

      I can see Apple using the material in a variety of forms from micro sized metal parts in mobile to ones used all the way up to the MacPro.

      The payoff is to take a complex part that makes assembly and functionality combine in a small lightweight complex part that can come out of the mold ready to assemble. You have to know you can make the part before you design it into a product.

      1. And also remember, depending on where the parts are used, Apple doesn’t need to be able to manufacture one copy of a part, or 1,000, or 1,000,000, but *hundreds of millions*, quickly and accurately. With the volumes Apple needs, even a .1% failure rate is a lot of wasted parts (or at least parts that need to be reprocessed).

    2. The extension is for sharing new patents. The license is locked up in perpetuity already (i.e., no opportunity for others).

      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.”

      1. Ooookkaaaayy then, but wtf has Apple done with their exclusivity? I mean, sitting on an oil well and not tapping it doesn’t do anybody a damn bit o’ good, and as a stockholder, I’m paying for those patents. [stomps foot] I want results!

    1. What didn’t turn out well was GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) and therefore Apple’s relationship with them. GTAT went bankrupt. They’d oversold their hype and it bit off their backsides. One of the big problems for GTAT’s failure was their inability to create larger sheets of sapphire glass usable for iPhones and presumably iPads. The larger sheets are prone to cracking.

      Meanwhile, Apple is successfully using sapphire for there smaller Watch faces, TouchID sensors and camera lenses. Aurora Sapphire and HTOT are supplying the sapphire. Lens and Biel are finishing the sapphire for Apple’s various purposes.

      Here’s a great recent article about Apple and sapphire:

      Apple Watch will consume a fifth of world’s sapphire supply

      1. Apple didn’t invent sapphire crystal . It has been around for years and I have had several watches with sapphire crystal faces . What they did was blow billions hoping to bring it to iPhone faces which didn’t happen .

        1. Who said Apple invented sapphire glass (or crystal)? Otherwise, oh yes. Lots of investment, time, money, property, blown on a half-baked idea by a highly questionable company that met a fitting end.

          (And no, I don’t mean Apple. It’s odd to me how often people don’t understand what is clearly and simply written before them. Another failing of our corroding schools? And here I am, a person who has had to consistently fight to become well versed in the English language because language is not one of my natural skills. The key is practice, practice, practice).

          1. For the record I have 18 years of post secondary education in scientific disciplines , have been a Mac user since 1984 , have been an Apple investor since before SJ returned and also own shares in LQMT . So far the only product that Apple has produced with LQMT technology is the SIM pin extractor which has come with every iPhone since the 3GS.
            I understand technological risk ( and bet money on it )
            With Sapphire crystal Apple clearly bet and lost an attempt to produce large crystal surfaces on a large scale .-period

  1. How about, a rainy day resource?

    While Apple holds onto the contract, competitors think there is value. Yet Apple does nothing with it. Time is wasted and competitors move on. Then and only then Apple roles out new tech based on liquid metal. All hell breaks loose, and everyone else is 2 years behind.

    The point is, let their ship sail by, then unleash the cannons.

  2. Zacks Equity Research, now there is a misnomer, especially with an article loaded up with statements like:

    “However, in the light of the extended deal, it seems that the tech bellwether might” blah blah blah.

    “Media reports suggest that Apple might be” blah blah blah.

    “it is possible that Apple might consider” blah blah blah.

    And the grand finale: “However, in the absence of any official announcement, we can only speculate.”

    That’s pretty crappy research Zacks Equity Research. First of all there was an official agreement: “In a FORM 8-K filing with the U.S. SEC dated June 17, 2015, Liquidmetal Technologies, Inc. has announced the extension of the Master Transaction Agreement with Apple Inc.” That sounds pretty official to me.

    The other thing you can do is stick to the facts. There were some nice facts in the article tough to find amongst all the bullshot, uh speculation but it wast there.

    The other thing you can do is shut up and report the news. If I want fantasy I”ll go read Gays on Thrones or something.

    Oh one more thing. What Apple is secret, and they are strong advocates of privacy. Maybe one day you’ll learn to respect that.

  3. One brainstorm on my part is that Apple has been using Liquidmetal in their R&D for years and intend to continue using it, if only for R&D. They may also have a developing product that integrates Liquidmetal. We’ll just have to wait and see. Clearly, Apple are fiddling around with the stuff in house for some purpose or other.

  4. This relationship is quite bizzar. LQMT is a $66m company by market cap and by anyone’s account, that’s significantly less than a round off error for AAPL

    If the technology is vital or strategic to AAPl, they would simply buy it. So its not for that reason. It just a tinkering item for them.

    Perhaps they are preventing another company from taking over but given that they work with Samsung on chips, not trying to fence off the nearest competitor either.

    Which leads to one thing in my mind. The potential is significant but its essentially too infant to invest directly so by having R&D agreement, it ensures that LQMT does not go belly up and retains the first right of refusal, in case something does develop. To buy or invest would be a waste of resource at this point.

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