Apple vs Samsung: Hey, Apple, you think you won? Wait till iPhone 5 comes out. We’ve got LTE goodies for ya!

As of today, in most of the patent lawsuits against Android around the world, Apple seems to have an upper hand.

The Jury is still out on the most high-profile of them– Apple vs Samsung in California – and Apple deserves to win on all the trade dress and design patent issues there. Samsung simply went too far making Galaxy S and Galaxy S2 look just like an iPhone.

But that’s design.

We are talking about utility patents covering basic smartphone functions here. And there’re few things more basic than smartphone connecting and using high-speed mobile data network. With LTE development starting in 2004 from NTT Docomo proposal and ending in a standard in 2009, it is safe to say – Apple had very little to do with it.

In fact, according to Daum, Samsung, LG and Ericsson own 60% of LTE patents worldwide.


And we didn’t even mention such mobile heavy-weights at the time as Nokia, Motorola (Google), or RIM.

And you thought chipmaker cross-licenses Apple is getting from suppliers to iPhone 5 will protect it from counter suits?

Think again.

Just last week Google’s Motorola found some patents it claims cover the ability to launch any media player on the phone or receive traffic updates.

Even with FRAND (Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory) terms that apply to standard essential patents, there’s a whole new set of licenses to acquire on top of standard 3G stuff Apple is fighting against now. And it seems that chip makers that get their wares into LTE iPhone can give very little protection. Especially when you know that even today they haven’t agreed how to do voice over LTE networks…

Watching all those Apple’s lawsuits against Samsung over the last few years, I always thought, WTF?! Hey Sammy, just settle on utility/functionality patents, and pay whatever for design stupidity/malice. It’s worth it. How stupid Samsung should be to prolong this malaise.

But maybe there is a method to Samsung’s madness?

At the time 3G standards were developed, Samsung was this small Korean OEM trying to learn how to make competitive mobile phones. And they still have those 3G essential patents they are trying to lob against Apple. With 4G LTE – Samsung was a major force with a huge R&D department, intimately involved in standard development process. And now owns a bunch of LTE patents Apple can not get around.

So all we’ve seen in Apple vs Samsung up to now might be a warm up. Samsung telling Apple:

C’mon, you think you can win? Let’s see. But even if you win the first round, wait until we go after your iPhone 5 LTE!

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Walt French

    Maybe VoLTE isn’t a standard today, but for it to be useful, it needs must be. Ya think Verizon will be able to handle 15 different VoLTE protocols capably?

    And as soon as say, Orange, Nokia and Samsung agree to a VoLTE protocol, why, it’s a standard. If they try to restrict others from licensing it on FRAND terms, every excluded carrier and manufacturer — probably, other equipment manufacturers, too — will petition the EU Competition Commission or the US Dept of Justice to force the standard to be recognized as a monopoly, an illegal collaboration by dominant providers to restrain trade.

    I actually think this is how it ought to be. But even if you dispute that view (OK by me), I think it will be enforced by the EU CC and US DoJ, to the same effect. Patents are not meant to restrain trade; they are meant to encourage innovation. Natural monopolies such as a country’s cellular network interoperating with equipment from a dozen other nations, WILL be regulated.

  • Jack

    Only uneducated people think that Apple should win.

    People talk about standard features like 3G?

    Well there are standards for design too. Rectangles and rounded corners are design standards, so no one company can claim ownership of it. Just because there’s a legal structure around one and not the other does not make one inherently more important than the other.

    Apple simply chose to rid of every ornamental design feature and stick to a design language that belongs to a universal body. Not only that, Apple is not the first company to embrace such a design philosophy.

    LG Prada was a device that beat the iPhone with such a design. But it was just not as popular as the iPhone that came later.

    But popularity does not mean first to invent.

    Samsung showed sufficient prior art to prove Apple’s design is not innovative.
    Popular? Yes.
    Innovative? We all know the answer to that one.

  • vasra

    Staska, try to find the share of essential LTE/4G patents for each player. That changes the picture quite a bit. You need to factor in Moto (now Google), Nokia, ex-Nortel patents, Qualcomm (probably the biggest at nearly 3.3%).

    Samsung and LG will be far behind in essentials.

    In the end, essential patents for 4G/LTE are the most important. They dictate who absolutely *has* to be licensed from, if you want to build 4G/LTE hw. Most of the non-essential LTE-4G patents are NOT needed.

  • Mark Rowe

    Apple needs to be shown its place. It is just a frigging device manufacturer who knows how to milk technology illiterate customers

    yes they make beautiful devices – but so do other businesses. One cant be kept mollycoddled for so long merely on such lean premises.

    they have been lucky to be overrated for so long so far, they need to do something more solid to deserve to sit on the high-horse they seem to be sitting

    Now that chickens are coming home to roost – Apple should take the opportunity and get to rigorous innovation, not just this “facial make-up” type of superficial renovation

  • reezun

    Nice try.

    If you want to drill down and look at essential patents, the picture becomes even more dismal for Apple.

    Samsung and Nokia own more than 90% of the essentials 4G patents, instead of just the 60% of all general 4G patents.

    That’s the difference between a real tech company like Samsung and a poser tech company like Apple.

  • Danny

    Well first of all apple already has 4g LTE in its new iPad, and Samsung hasn’t sued them for that yet, so what makes you think they will sue for having the sa,e technology in the iPhone 5 when the new iPad already has it!?

  • Walt French

    Help me: why do others’ ownership of essential patents put Apple at a disadvantage?

    If these are licensed on a non-discriminatory basis, Microsoft, Samsung and others will pay Nokia, Motorola et the same amount per handset (or likely, per chip implementing the feature). If they are licensed on a fair basis, those license costs will be rather modest per licensee, as they have been prior to the Motorola and Samsung claims, both of which are not exactly sailing towards a happy conclusion in the courts and Competition Commission investigations.

    Staska’s point seemed to be that there were non-standards-essential IP that would be needed to actually perform adequate LTE, but unfortunately, that’s an oxymoron.

    So, again, how is Apple screwed by continuing to license patents from Nokia et al, as it has done oh-so-profitably since the inception of the iPhone?

  • Walt French

    Down-voters are hereby welcomed to say whether they dislike the facts that I am laying out, or whether they think my logic is faulty (and what I have wrong). Others who see down-votes are hereby welcomed to think the former— that I am highlighting uncomfortable truths.

  • Fault Wench

    People are down voting you because this just shows who the real tech companies are, and who piggy backs off these real tech companies.

    And it especially shows who’s the one trying to brandish around weak, broad, and ought-to-be-invalid design patents as if they are some revolutionary innovations.

  • Mike Zapasnoi

    ‘Cause Samsung didn’t need it back then. Now I’m sure they will come for Apple. And they will do it with the device Apple is betting at the most: iPhone5.