Samsung vs. Apple: Are LTE patents the next battleground?

Summary:Samsung will reportedly sue Apple if the latest iPhone includes LTE support. If Samsung follows through it would have some ammo in its ongoing Apple patent war.

Samsung will reportedly sue Apple should the release of its latest iPhone include Long Term Evolution 4G connectivity. If Samsung delivers on its threats, LTE may become the new intellectual property battleground.

According to the Korea Times, Samsung will be watching Apple's launch event on Wednesday very closely. The Korea Times quoted an industry source:

It’s true that Samsung Electronics has decided to take immediate legal action against the Cupertino-based Apple. Countries in Europe and even the United States ― Apple’s home-turf ― are our primary targets.

Earlier:  Samsung to sue Apple over 4G LTE in iPhone 5

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Now it would be very easy to dismiss this Samsung report as bluster. However, Samsung does have an LTE network business as well as 4G phones so it wouldn't be surprising if it had some patent heft. Another reason I think the LTE patent discussion warrants some thought is Amazon's Kindle Fire HD launch.

Last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talked up the Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE and noted that the company engineered its own wireless model that can serve all 10 bands.

Amazon's site notes:

Unlike some 4G devices, Kindle Fire HD includes support for 10 bands, so even when you're in a place with no 4G LTE network you'll fall back to the fastest available network and won't lose coverage. All this with no compromises to battery or weight - Kindle Fire HD combines the most power-efficient LTE chipset available with a custom-designed 4G wireless modem that's only 2.2 mm thin.

Why tout a wireless modem. Who cares? Amazon cares---especially if it's trying to stay out of the annoying and distracting patent scrum. By emphasizing that it customized a wireless modem and used some intellectual property behind it, Amazon's motives may have revolved around staying out of the courtroom.

Strategically, Samsung would be wise to launch an LTE lawsuit assuming it has the patents to back up its claims. Why? Samsung could swap LTE patents for Apple's pinch to zoom intellectual property. Despite all the bluster, tech companies typically settle and cross license.

Topics: Mobility, 4G, iPhone, Legal, Samsung

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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