While the mobile market is currently flooded with equal parts overly effusive praise and overly critical lament regarding Apple’s new iPhone 5, it likely won’t be the only Apple news of import over the next several days, as rumours are circulating that Samsung is poised to file a suit against Apple over the iPhone 5’s LTE capabilities; opening yet another front in the prolonged legal war being played out between these two mobile behemoths.
But could this simply be a sign of desperation following Samsung’s painful loss in aCaliforniacourt late last month, as on the face of it this suit looks to be a classic case of double dipping, chasing Apple for licensing fees that the company has already paid to someone else for access to Samsung’s patented LTE technology? Further, with 4G LTE technology likely subject to FRAND terms, it would be unlikely that Apple would face any sort of legal injunction against the iPhone 5 regardless of the outcome.
Of course all this remains speculation as we await the details of Samsung’s supposed new suit against Apple, one that would serve only as the most recent front of a multi-jurisdictional and multifaceted legal war between these two companies.
As we saw on Wednesday, Apple did what was expected with the iPhone 5, offering it several useful (but hardly revolutionary) incremental upgrades, finally delivering 4G LTE capability to one of the world’s most popular smartphone brands. While it’s unclear regarding exactly what patents Samsung holds related to LTE, or what particular infringement they intend to sue Apple over, given the fact LTE has arrived on the iPhone 5 it’s a good bet that Samsung’s suit will follow shortly.
The first problem for Samsung, however, is that any sort of LTE patent infringement case will certainly look like the Korean tech giant is trying to double-dip into licensing its LTE patents. As Rob Walch, host of Today in iOS, told the E-Commerce Times, “Apple buys chips that have a license for that technology. What Samsung is trying to do with this suit, if it is really going to sue, is double dip…Every time they have tried that, they have been shot down.”
The second problem, as most analysts see it, is that 4G LTE technology has become an industry standard, meaning that it is subject to FRAND terms, that is, companies using this patented technology can expect “Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory” access to it. We saw a similar suit brought against Apple by Motorola in the early days of 3G technology, only to see Motorola sent home with its tail between its legs because 3G must considered a market standard piece of technology.
Simply put, if Apple has purchased LTE chips from licensed vendors, Samsung has little hope of winning any sort of patent case, since Apple hasn’t done anything wrong.
In the end, if LTE is subject to FRAND terms, Apple has little to worry about, as even if this case goes to court its rare that any sort of injunction would ever be imposed, meaning Apple will simply go on selling its iPhone brand just as it always has. Of course the details of Samsung’s rumoured suit remain to be seen, meaning that perhaps there’s infringement here that Samsung has recognized that is beyond the purview of the market in general. In fact I hope that is the case, given that any other situation will only result in Samsung looking like a petulant child, trying to get back at Apple any way it can.