March 15, 2012
Patent Wars Continue: Dutch Court Tosses Samsung’s 3G Claim
Falling in line with decisions handed down two weeks ago in neighboring Germany, a Dutch court has tossed an attempt by Samsung Electronics to ban the sale of Apple´s iPhone and iPad in the Netherlands.
The decision is only the most recent development in a prolonged patent war that began last year and has embroiled numerous tech giants including Apple, Samsung, Google and HTC and now spans some 10 countries.
The undisputable vanguards of this war have been Apple and Samsung, who have increasingly turned to strategic patent lawsuits as a means of gaining the upper hand in the global struggle for domination of smartphone markets.
Earlier this month, German regional courts dismissed two dueling patent-infringement suits between Samsung and Apple in addition to two rulings against Samsung in January.
The Hague court announced its decision yesterday that Samsung could not collect licensing fees on its 3G patents used in Apple´s iPhone 3G, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. According to the court, Samsung won´t be permitted to cash in on their patent directly from Apple because they´re already cashing in through an intermediary.
Samsung´s 3G patent was licensed several years ago to global telecommunications giant Qualcomm, for which the San Diego-based company pays hefty royalties. Qualcomm then sells its Samsung-licensed chips to Apple, and part of that licensing fee is presumably already figured into the price Apple pays for them.
Essentially, the court said that Samsung was trying to double-dip in the licensing-fee trough — a tactic known in legal jargon as ℠patent exhaustion´.
Even if this hadn´t been the case, the court also declared that all four of the patents in dispute were essential to 3G standards, meaning that under current FRAND protocol (Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory) Samsung is legally obliged to make them available at a reasonable price.
While disappointed with the decision, Samsung has insisted that there´s a silver lining to the court´s decision.
While the firm cannot extract additional licensing fees on their 3G technology, the court did rule that Samsung may be able to stake out patent rights on Apple products using older Intel-Infineon chips.
Yet with these chips quickly falling out of chic, the victory is minor and symbolic, and it will likely have few significant financial ramifications for either party.
The court gave Apple until April 11 to provide evidence showing that they have already paid licensing fees on these chips.
In a formal statement, the Seoul-based electronics giant stated optimistically that the decision by the Dutch court “provides Samsung with a legal basis to move forward with the protection of our patent rights.”
“Samsung has and will continue to stand ready to meet its obligations in licensing its technology on fair and reasonable terms.”
Despite the increasingly acrimonious corporate feuding, Samsung and Apple continue to have a deeply co-dependent business relationship. Samsung remains the principle provider of the mobile processors that power Apple´s popular mobile gadgets as well as the high-tech touch screens that provide the interface for its new iPad 3. And Apple remains Samsung´s single largest customer.