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Samsung, Google stand united against Apple in patent fight

July 2, 2012

The more we talk about flagship mobile devices, whether smartphone or tablets, the more we inadvertently end up analyzing the legal battles they generate between some of the most important players in the mobile business. And obviously, the most important patent-based legal conflict is currently being fought between Apple and Android, although other companies are also targeting Google’s open source mobile operating system in similar battles.

So far, Google had to, or felt the need to remain a somewhat quiet, but very interested observant of the various fights Apple has been engaged in. Interestingly, whether it’s Apple vs Samsung, Apple vs Motorola or Apple vs HTC, the iPhone maker never sued Google directly, and the later never went directly after Apple either, even though it has always said it fully supports its Android device-making partners.

But in the mean time, Google entered all of these conflicts, and its battling Apple directly now that it has completed its extremely expensive Motorola purchase.

Apple vs HTC

Google is not directly a part in this lawsuit, currently being won by Apple, but the Search giant did try to borrow various patents to the Taiwanese company in order to support its counterclaims against Apple. However, these patents were shot down in court, and Google’s efforts failed, with HTC left to fend of for itself, at least in theory.

Apple vs Motorola

Google purchased Motorola for $12.5 billion, with tech blogs and pundits speculating that the real reason Motorola was buying the still unprofitable Android maker is its vast collection of mobile patents that could be successfully used to defend Android, and, why not, attack competitors when and if needed. But Google also inherited Motorola’s ongoing patent squabble with Apple, and that fight is far from over.

Apple and Google are finally facing each other in various courts, and while a U.S. trial between the two has been recently dismissed with prejudice, the companies are yet to reach a settlement.

Apple vs Samsung

The Apple vs Samsung conflict is maybe the most complex of the three, with the two giants – also partners when it comes to certain supply lines – suing and countersuing each others in 10 countries in more than 30 distinct lawsuits.

So far Apple is winning the battle, after having obtained various legal victories against Samsung in different countries, including several injunctions against Galaxy-branded devices, but there aren’t any final rulings in any of these conflicts. Furthermore, settlement talks between the two parties failed a couple of months ago, and the trials will go forward. As for Google, the company stayed away so far, but it’s now determined to enter the fight.

Why is Google ready to intervene in this particular conflict? Because just last week, Apple scored a couple of victories at home, against the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet and the Galaxy Nexus smartphone – two injunctions, both appealed by Samsung. The fact that the Galaxy Nexus risks being banned from selling in the U.S. for an undetermined period of time is clearly something Google can’t be happy with. The device started selling in the region just over six months ago, and it’s still a great iPhone alternative even though hotter Android handsets have been launched since its unveiling.

Nevertheless, the Galaxy Nexus is Google’s third and most recent Nexus handset, and the company can’t go down without a fight, especially considering that it just launched its first ever tablet, also included in the Nexus family. Last week, during Google I/O 2012, Google announced the Nexus 7 and started taking pre-orders for it in several markets, America included. At the time, we wondered whether the device is in any danger to be included in such patent-based lawsuits, and now that the Galaxy Nexus may be banned from selling it the USA, we’re even more interested to see whether Apple will make a move against the Jelly Bean device in the foreseeable future.

With that in mind, we’re certainly curious to see what Google can bring to the Samsung vs Apple patent battle, especially since the company has not been able to successfully leverage Moto’s patents against Apple to obtain any kind of settlement thus far. We’ll certainly learn more about this legal collaboration between the two companies in the near future, but in the mean time we can report that the partnership is official:

’’It’s too early to comment on our game plan (with Google) in the legal battle; but we will do our best to get more royalties from Apple, which has benefited from our technology,’’ said a Samsung insider.
’’The fight is becoming more dramatic and the possibility of a truce in the form of a cross-licensing deal, seems to be becoming likely.’’

However, this alliance is not necessarily a match made in Heaven, as both companies are mainly targeting Apple with FRAND patents, or standard-essentials, a practice for which both companies are investigated by the European Union (Samsung) and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (Google-Motorola). And both companies are likely to use the same patents against Apple following this expected partnership.

We’ll be back with more details once we move closer to the Apple vs Samsung trial, which is set to debut on July 30 in the USA.