As Samsung seeks revenge, Apple is hoarding LTE-related patents

September 4, 2012

The Apple v. Samsung legal saga is far from a conclusion, in spite of the seemingly crushing defeat that Samsung suffered in a San Jose court two weeks ago. Not only are the legal proceedings in the case not finished (Samsung will ask for an appeal), but the two technology giants are facing each other in many other courts from around the world.

Furthermore, nothing can prevent the two companies from starting new legal actions, which is precisely what Samsung is apparently planning to do. Industry talk is that the Koreans are just waiting for the release of the new iPhone (an announcement is due on September 12), which will be the first phone from Apple to feature LTE connectivity.

Samsung is a major holder of LTE-related patents. According to the Korean outlet The Chosunilbo, Samsung Electronics holds 819 LTE patents, which makes it first among the LTE contributors, with a 12.7% share. Some analysts think that the Koreans will have a good chance to take the LTE iPhone 5 down (obtain an injunction and/or damages), because they own such a large portion of the crucial patents related to LTE.

Up until now, Samsung only managed to obtain an injunction against the iPhone in South Korea, and even that was half a victory, because Apple obtained an injunction against some Samsung products as well. But with LTE, the Koreans might prove far more effective.

For Apple, an injunction on the iPhone 5 in the US or other major market could have grim consequences. Unlike their Korean rivals, Apple only sells one device (I am not counting the older versions), which brings in the majority of its profits. A severe disruption of Apple’s main business might prove too much to bear, even with all the billions that the Cupertino giant has been saving for rainy days.

It’s no wonder that Apple has engaged in a silent race to acquire as many LTE-related patents as possible. And boy, they acquired them. The Chosunilbo says that last year, Apple had no patents registered with the body that oversees the LTE standard, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). This year, Apple has 318 patents on its name, of which 44 they developed on their own and the rest they acquired from Nortel and Freescale. Apple also has the largest stake in Rockstar Bidco, a patent consortium that bought 4,000 telecom patents from the now defunct Nortel last year. This gives it access to another 116 patents.

Bottom line, Apple is now a major LTE intellectual property holder. With 434 LTE patents, Tim Cook’s company now ranks among the top five IP holders registered at ETSI. Those who were hoping that Samsung would have an easy time crushing their rivals using its LTE patent trove could be disappointed.

Nevertheless, in patent law, the number (or the scope) of patents that a company holds is pretty much irrelevant. You can bring down Goliath with just one well-aimed rock. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have an entire arsenal of missiles to fling at your opponent.

The fall shapes up to be very interesting in the mobile industry. The patent wars will reach a climax, and the way the conflict unfolds in the next months will have long lasting effects on the world of tech.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1076674789 Friðberg Leifs Jensson

    This is going WAY out of line

  • http://www.facebook.com/abdullah.naji1 Abdullah Naji

    YAY! SAMSUNG ROCKS!

  • MasterMuffin

    I thought samsung won in japan (somebody correct me if I’m wrong)

    • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

      The court ruled that they didn’t infringe on Apple’s patents. But they didn’t actually win an injunction or damages.

      • MasterMuffin

        Ok, but it’s a 1/4 victory :)

  • Mike Minor

    This could still make apple’s world difficult. This patent war stuff needs to stop.

  • cvgordo

    samsung should have anticipated this and gotten to those patents before apple did. if the iphone 5 is released with lte and samsung legitimately had a chance to block apple from putting lte in it there then someone at samsung needs to be fired for such a colossal screw up.
    i think it’d be hilarious for the iphone 5 be blocked from getting lte but after samsung’s billion dollar blunder i don’t have that much faith that they had the foresight to get it done.

    • MoogleStiltzkin

      the thing is, samsung wasn’t pre-planning to sue the pants out of competitors. That was Apple who started this. Samsung only now beginning their planning for their counter-measure.

  • http://twitter.com/Xeneize480 Xeneize480

    I am Xeneize480 and iSupport Samsung :) lol

  • Johnny5k

    Aren’t most (all?) of the patents that are necessary for LTE licensed under FRAND agreements? So Samsung would be forced to license them to Apple at the same royalties as anyone else go uses LTE technology? Or am I missing something?

    • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

      That is correct, but that hasn’t prevented Samsung before from suing over 3G-essential patents, with little success. Perhaps they think they have a better case now, or perhaps they hope to catch Apple using a non-standard essential patent.

  • Andrew Mezzi

    These patent wars are useless and just hurting consumers. I really hope someone in the government will see the problem and make some patent reforms soon.

    • Jamie Cottrell

      tru that

  • http://twitter.com/nerdydesi Nerdy Desi

    I wish Samsung the best of luck. Apple needs to finally suffer and realize they can’t bully their competitors and not expect any retaliation. But sadly, it always appears when Apple sues, they win. When they are sued, they manage to dodge it.

  • tBs_Battousai

    Even without LTE the iPhone 5 would sell millions… iPhone users have proved time and time again that spec’s don’t carry any weight… they will believe the Apple adverts regardless…

    tBs-Battousai.blogspot.com

  • Andrew Davis

    I want patent law reform NOW. This is pitiful. Apple, your market share is HUGE. STFU and sell your little iphones to people that want iphones. You have been hanging around American cell phone carriers too long; you are starting to think like them. Quit trying to achieve global domination. Competition is good for us, the people that use these phones day in and day out. This sue-happy patent and trademark fiasco is poisonous to the entire mobile electronics market as a whole.

    • SuzieJoeBob

      When Apple threatened to sue an online Polish grocerystore for having a green apple for a logo, I lost all respect for Apple.

  • Nakel

    It’s sad really. Apple stopped innovating after the release of the first Ipad. Now, rather than innovating, they sue. I’d like to buy Apple, I really would. But everything they sell now is so far behind the rest of the world. The Iphone 5 promises nothing that other manufacturers haven’t had on sale for years. No SD card reader, no Mass USB functionality. No replaceable battery. But it will have great resolution! Not that it matters except to the marketing department… Their marketing is great, no doubt about that. They have the best engineers in the world. But they’ve gotten so big that corporate can’t see past it’s nose. Come on Apple, get out of court and build something really great! Your engineers could do it if you’d just let them loose…

  • Johnny

    It’s Samsung’s Turn… YAY!

  • SuzieJoeBob

    I hope Apple gets the shit beaten out of them. Pack of cheap bastards.