Looks like Apple’s not the only one interested in spanking Samsung in the courts. Today, Ericsson filed a lawsuit against the South Korean company, alleging — you guessed it — patent infringement.
Although direct consumer sales haven’t been super-lofty for Ericsson, it is still the dominant leader in cellular networking equipment, with most major smartphones and tablets using the company’s technologies in their products. But the mobile patents deal between the Stockholm company and Samsung expired in 2011. The two have been trying to hash things out since, but the negotiations seem to have stalemated, despite the strength of the Galaxy brand and its burgeoning marketshare. And so Ericsson decided to pull the trigger and sue the mobile device maker. At the heart of the case are 24 software and hardware patents covering GSM, GPRS, 3G, LTE and other mobile phone standards, as well as “lesser tech” such as certain UI aspects and speech features.
There are two sides to every story, however, and Samsung’s position is that it tried to engage in “fair and reasonable” negotiations over the past two years, but Ericsson was simply being too greedy: “This time Ericsson has demanded significantly higher royalty rates for the same patent portfolio…. As we cannot accept such extreme demands, we will take all necessary legal measures to protect against Ericsson’s excessive claims.”
You don’t tend to hear a whole lot about Ericsson’s litigious past — most of the buzz has been around Samsung and Apple, with smatterings of news about Nokia, Google and RIM — and the company itself says it really only uses the courts when all other attempts have failed. But that doesn’t mean it won’t go to the mattresses when it has to: Ericsson previously sued Samsung for patent infringement in July 2006, in a case that settled a year later. Four years after that, in 2011, Ericsson also sued Chinese phone maker ZTE over patents, which also settled out of court.
Whether this case will make a global trek, like Samsung v. Apple’s 10-country opus, remains to be seen. For now, the lawsuit was merely filed in Texas, as Ericsson has a head office there, and the U.S. accounts for the biggest intellectual property market in the world. But interestingly, the outcome could affect — even help — Cupertino’s lawsuits.
Explains Foss Patents:
Apple may benefit from this hugely because Samsung will now have to argue that Ericsson’s demands, which were presumably not nearly as outrageous as what Samsung wanted Apple to pay, were outside the FRAND ballpark. Ericsson’s litigation forces Samsung to argue that FRAND rates should be low, while in the dispute with Apple, it takes the opposite position. Litigation proceeds pretty quickly in the Eastern District of Texas, so there’s a good chance that Apple will be able to use in its second California lawsuit (in which several of Samsung’s counterclaim patents are wireless SEPs) some of what Samsung has to argue in its defense against Ericsson.
And so the courtroom grind keeps churning. Stay tuned for updates in this saga.