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Where next for Samsung, Apple patent dispute?

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Published : 2012-03-04 17:55
Updated : 2012-03-04 19:12

Samsung to appeal German ruling, but sources say two tech giants could agree on cross-license deals in the future


The future of the patent dispute between global IT behemoths Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc. is uncertain following a German court’s dismissal of two patent suits on Friday.

The Mannheim Regional Court in Germany on Friday rejected a patent infringement suit filed by Samsung against its U.S. rival over its third generation wireless technology, while also dismissing Apple’s claim that Samsung infringed on the firm’s slide-to-unlock technology.

“It’s unfortunate that the court has reached such a decision. We will lodge an appeal soon to make clear that Apple has infringed our patent,” Samsung officials said in response to the ruling. “It is also not over yet considering that we raised two other infringement cases against the U.S. firm over patents in December last year.”

Although Samsung is also planning to concentrate on fighting the suits it filed in other countries such as Japan and Australia, its loss of all three suits against Apple in Germany is raising the possibility of the two firms agreeing on a cross-license.

By offering each other certain sums, the agreement could help them avoid a long-term battle which does not benefit either, industry sources say.

The two companies are major competitors fighting for the top spot in smartphone manufacturing and sales, but they are also partners in supplies.

“But the timing of an agreement may come later as the two would have to watch for a period when they both have the results to maintain their dignity,” said an industry source.

In the meantime, Munich-based intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller, who is keeping a close watch on the ongoing patent battle, said there is a high possibility that Apple will appeal.

“While Apple typically declines to comment, I believe they too will appeal, especially since the Mannheim court’s interpretation of the slide-to-unlock patent was narrower than the one the Munich Regional Court adopted in a case that Apple won against Motorola two weeks ago, a fact that shows that there’s room for interpretation and the appeals court could decide either way,” he said.

Apple claimed victory against Motorola over its slide-to-unlock technology in a German court on Feb. 16.

Another pending case involving Apple’s slide-to-unlock technology ― over a utility model ― is scheduled to take place in Mannheim on March 16.

“(Friday’s) decision does not reduce the likelihood of success of Apple’s other slide-to-unlock case against Samsung” said Mueller. “The slide-to-unlock utility model has a large number of claims and some of those are much broader and don’t have the related limitations.”

Considering that Apple also has brought five other infringement suits against the Suwon-based firm, the German courts will be busy dealing with those suits in the time being. A win in any of the suits would result in a sales ban of Samsung products mentioned in the suit.

Samsung, on the other hand, will have to wait until June to get the ruling results of the two additional suits it filed in the Mannheim court.

In total, the two firms are engaged in about 30 different patent battles in nine countries ― Germany, Australia, the U.K., the U.S., Japan, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Korea ― on issues that include design, user interfaces and wireless communications technologies of their wireless gadgets.

By Cho Ji-hyun (sharon@heraldcorp.com)

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