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Apple renews exclusive rights to Liquidmetal in consumer products into 2015

iPhone 3G SIM card ejector tool. Photo via Flickr user Jamie McCall.

According to an SEC document filed on Wednesday, Apple and Liquidmetal have entered a deal to extend an exclusive license to use the exotic metal in consumer products through Feb. 2015, marking the second time the companies decided to prolong their mutual agreement.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filing notes the companies entered into a second amendment to the original exclusive rights deal first signed in August 2010, which was itself extended in 2012 under a first amendment.

Until now, Apple's most public use of Liquidmetal — the commercial name for a special bulk amorphous alloy — has been limited to a SIM card ejector tool, though it is feasible that the material may already be in use in small unseen internal device parts.

In 2012, the inventor of Liquidmetal, Dr. Atakan Peker, said Apple was two to four years away from mass producing the alloy for large scale projects like chassis parts for an iPhone or iPad. At the time, Peker said there is "no suitable manufacturing infrastructure yet to take full advantage of this alloy technology."

Liquidmetal is classified as an amorphous, non-crystalline material and is some 2.5 times stronger than titanium alloy commonly used in consumer products. The alloy is also 1.5 times harder than stainless steel found in portable electronic devices. Before Apple's exclusive license, Liquidmetal was first hit consumer products in 2003 in medical equipment, sporting goods and special applications by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The new agreement gives Apple another year of exclusivity before patent rights revert back to Crucible Intellectual Property, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liquidmetal Technologies.