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

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


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

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  • Absolutely Samsung should go ahead with this

    Apple simply needs to either license this technology or stick with 3G or invent their own wireless protocol.

    Every single argument any Apple fanboi has given for what Samsung could have done to avoid Apple's wrath applies here.

    The best result would be if Samsung got their ban on the iPhone 5 and Apple removed LTE support but was still allowed to sell the iPhone 5. That way, the people who want iPhones can still buy them, they'll juts be much slower than every single other cell phone out on the market.
    • Not necessarily

      As it's been proven in the courts with the 3G and other patents. You can't hold back FRAND patents to barter for other patents. It doesn't stop them from bartering if they want, but as long as they are standards essential Samsung will have to offer them at a fair price.
      • Apple can simply stick with 3G

        3G, while slow, works just fine. So I don't want to see iPhones banned because of this, I just want to see Apple have to remove the LTE functionality. That would be best for consumers if Apple does not want to reimburse the innovative patent holders for their hard work. It isn't like Apple can't totally sympathize how Samsung feels. No one likes it when your competitor slavishly copies your innovations.
        • Oh give it a rest Toddy

          "So I don't want to see iPhones banned because of this..." I call BS on this one.

          "No one likes it when your competitor slavishly copies your innovations." Of course not, that is why Apple first offered to license the IP to Samsung and then sued to protect the IP that Samsung subsequently infringed upon after refusing the licensing offer.
          • I've been extremely consistent

            "I don't want to see iPhones banned because of this"

            I challenge you to find any place where I've ever written that I want people to be denied their desire to purchase iPhones. If I have, post it and I'll offer a sincere apology. Everyone should be able to buy an iPhone if that is what they want, as long as that iPhone doesn't contain any unpaid Sammy innovations.

            "Apple first offered to license the IP to Samsung"

            Sammy CLEARLY knows that the iPhone 5 contains infringing technology. What makes the most sense is that Sammy knows this because Sammy offered to license the IP to cr@pple, they had discussions, negotiations, and cr@pple refused to pay Samsung the price that Samsung offered. So it is clear that Samsung first offered to license this IP to cr@pple and cr@pple simply refused to pay the price. Let's hope that a court makes cr@pple pay the price by forcing them to remove this IP from the iPhone but allowing the new, "improved" iPhone to be sold. Using your arguments, Samsung is free to release smartphones that don't contain cr@pple's IP. Likewise, cr@pple should be free to release smartphones that don't contain Samsung's IP. That's fair.

            (company names mangled to get past spam filter)
          • So nothing to say

            about the actual subject in discussion? No thoughts on why Samsung shouldn't return the favour to apple? No information on whether these are FRAND patents?

            Just a rant against Todd then? Useful.
            Little Old Man
          • No

            They are not standard essential patents. Yes, Samsung has already found infringement in the LTE iPad. YES I hope they ban the iPhone 5 to show Apple what it feels like.
          • Yes

            First, you are not in a decision to determine if the patents are FRAND. This is determined by the courts. Whether or not they are FRAND will be decided based on a number of factors, most of which point squarely to the fact that these patents are FRAND. The very pervasiveness of LTE referenced above by our resident troll works against Samsung, here.
            As to your last line, grow up.
          • decision=position

          • Courts have nothing to do with FRAND

            There is no court or regulatory body that can force a patent to be offered under FRAND terms. When a body is developing a standard, participating companies are encouraged to offer the technologies they are contributing under FRAND terms so that all of the members can equally share the technologies necessary to implement the patent. In the past, technologies would not be accepted into the standard if they weren't FRAND.

            Apple changed that by their heavy handed tactics against FRAND patent holders; now, it appears that many companies have not offered up all of their LTE related technologies as FRAND, just for this reason. Unfortunate, but this is what happens when the litigation as a means of competition can-o-worms is opened.
          • Wrong

            Courts force patents into FRAND terms all the time.
            When a patent becomes necessary for the implementation of a standard, that the patent holder pushed as a standard, the courts are in a position to force that company to license that patent in a fair and reasonable way. There are countess cases of this.
            I doubt you can point to a single example of what you call Apple's "heavy handedness" in its tactics with patent holders. They assert their position in a way most every other company would in the same position. That they refuse to pay exorbitant fees, fees no other licenser pays, because they have such a huge share of the market is in no way, shape, or form, "heavy handed". That description fits the original patent holders, who are trying to make Apple pay more than their other licensees.
            And once LTE became a standard, it was not only up to those individual licensees anymore whether of not those patents were FRAND. That is the nature of a standard. That is where the courts come in.
            This is how this has worked for ages. One wonders how much of a "vet" you truly are.

          • Hooked on Phonics

            Perhaps if you took some lessons in simple reading comprehension, you'd have seen that athynz addressed the subject directly.
          • Apple's patent offer?

            Are you talking about the same offer Apple made in 2010? I think the court documents revealed that Apple's 2010 licensing offer didn't include any patents in the last trial (eg, bouncing-back, design, etc). The 2010 offer largely consisted of generic OS patents that had nothing to do with Samsung's supposed infringement.

            Furthermore, Apple doesn't license their core patents.
      • So the real question

        will be whether these LTE patents have been designated FRAND or not. If Samsung used these patents to develop a common standard then court room failure looks imminent, if they're anything like the 3G patents. Based on the court history of FRAND patents though, it would seem odd that both Samsung and HTC have publicly come out to say they will go after apple for infringement. Surely they can't have that short a memory?
        Little Old Man
        • It's funny how the Apple fanbois act about legal issues

          Whenever Apple makes any legal moves that are challenged by intelligent ZDNet posters, the canned response is:
          "Apple lawyers are a lot smarter than stupid ZDNet posters so if a ZDNet poster thought of it, the Apple lawyers have thought of it and it clearly doesn't hurt Apple's case."

          Yet those same Apple fanbois believe that the legal department of other huge corporations are dumb and that simply yelling FRAND gets Apple off the hook. If it were so simple, Samsung's lawyers would not proceed with this. Clearly the Apple fanbois are idiots when it comes to the law.
          • What a DURR moment

            Yelling FRAND gets nobody off the hook. But there are 2 other POSSIBILITIES here other than "Apple is a stealing sack of crap" (which is ALSO a possibility without a doubt)...

            1. These patents are covered by FRAND - Result: No way in hell there will be a device injunction - Apple would be ordered to pay royalties equal to what Samsung charges other companies in licensing.
            2. These patents are licensed by Foxconn, which covers the iPhone implementation - If Samsung has licensed to Foxconn, and Foxconn manufactures the LTE chips for Apple, then theoretically Apple is covered already - and if they aren't, AND these patents are FRAND, then Apple could show that Samsung is infringing on FRAND terms, since it is obvious that Samsung would be discrimanatory if they licensed Foxconn & not Apple.

            Not everything is how the Fanbois and/or Fandroids see it.
          • FRAND is not way of be-all-end-all of lawsuits

            IANAL, but FRAND term doesn't necessary cover the customer of the chip manufacturer. The patent could license ONLY to produce the chip that have 3G/4G in it but doesn't mean the customer are license to use the technology. For example, a GPU chip can include a hardware decoder of MEPG 2/4 but the OEM that make the video cards would still required to get the license from the MPEG LA.

            That happened to Original XBOX and Raspberry Pi.

            FRAND may also include reciprocity clauses like "If you (or your customers) don't sue me then I won't sue you (or your customer)". If Qualcomm's chip (which have Samsung's IP in it) also have the clauses in it like this, Apple may already voided that agreement and can be sued for infringment. Samsung may not sue for injunction but will definitely worth the damages, which would be 2. some percent to the maximum extent.
          • It doesn't make sense...

            That a manufacturer would buy millions of chips that already contain royalty and licensing fees without the express purpose of using those chips in products. Apple did have talks with Samsung about not copying so lavishly which Samsung refused to listen to, as they refused to listen to google to stop, and emails (even after Samsung deleted most before trial) showed express attempt to specifically copy Apple's look and feel.
            I don't see how Apple is trying to "copy" Samsung expressly by using 4g, which is an industry standard. Most of these companies shaking people down for using 4g are companies that purchased patents tgey're not supposed to abuse, and didn't create 4g anyway. Google didn't create 4g, they acquired the patent. Looking as close to an iPhone as possible isn't an industry standard right, but using 4g is an industry standard essential. I hope they create their own chip rather than paying good money for parts that will be used against them later anyway. It'd be like Apple suing for actually using their products purchased for business.
          • Sorry, but FRAND patents don't work that way

            If the chip manufacturer licensed all patents in the manufacture of the chip, then you are wrong, FRAND extends to the OEM. This was NOT the issue with either the XBOX or the Pi. WHere on earth are you getting this?!?
            The issue with the Pi is that they never licensed MPEG2 in the first place. WHat chip manufacturer are you claiming paid MPEG2 licensing fees?!?
            Now they have negotiated a deal whereby individuals (not the Pi's OEM) can pay for an individual decode license. The subjects have NOTHING to do with one another.