Apple has extended its rights to the metal alloy material that it originally licensed from Liquidmetal Technologies in 2010 for exclusive use in consumer electronics products. The proof comes from a recent filing with the SEC:
On May 19, 2014, Liquidmetal Technologies, Inc. (the “Company”) and Apple Inc. (“Apple”) entered into an second amendment (the “Second Amendment”) to the Master Transaction Agreement that was originally entered into on August 5, 2010 (the “MTA”) and amended on June 15, 2012 (the “First Amendment”). Under the MTA and the First Amendment, the Company was obligated to contribute to Crucible Intellectual Property, LLC, a special purpose subsidiary of the Company, all intellectual property acquired or developed by the Company from August 5, 2010 through February 5, 2014, and all intellectual property held by Crucible Intellectual Property, LLC was exclusively licensed on a perpetual basis to Apple for the field of use of consumer electronic products under the MTA. Under the Second Amendment, the parties agreed to amend the MTA and the First Amendment to extend the February 5, 2014 date to February 5, 2015.
Up until now Apple has tested the material in its SIM card ejector tool that came with previous generation iPhones, but several rumors in recent years have claimed it could take advantage of Liquidmetal for batteries, screws or other components of its products. However, back in 2012, one of Liquidmetal’s inventors noted that Apple was likely still three to five years away from using the material on a large scale in products:
I would not say Liquidmetal was perfected. This is a technology that has yet to be matured and perfected both in manufacturing process and application development. I should note that this is a completely new and different metal technology. Therefore, there is no suitable manufacturing infrastructure yet to take full advantage of this alloy technology… For example, I estimate that Apple will likely spend on the order of $300 million to $500 million — and three to five years — to mature the technology before it can used in large scale.
He also noted that Apple licensing the technology for casings and enclosures was an industry first, but that we’d likely see it used in hinges or brackets before something like a MacBook casing. “This is very exciting. Therefore, I expect Apple to use this technology in a breakthrough product. Such product will likely bring an innovative user interface and industrial design together, and will also be very difficult to copy or duplicate with other material technologies.”