updated 05:15 pm EDT, Thu August 30, 2012
Adding Windows Phone models to lessen dependence on Android
Among the numerous reactions Samsung has had to its sweeping loss to Apple in the first full patent trial against the iPhone maker, the company has demonstrated that it intends to continue pursuing litigation. In addition to entering talks with wireless carriers about design and software changes to avoid further infringement of Apple patents, the company has said it will sue Apple again if it brings out any LTE-equipped devices.
Samsung holds a number of patents connected to the so-called "4G" standard, but how many of them are standards-essential is not currently known outside the company. Data from Reuters suggests that Samsung may have as many as 12.2 percent of the existing patents related to LTE, with Nokia and Qualcomm holding larger portfolios with 18.9 and 12.5 percent stakes, respectively.
Apple is currently seeking a sales ban on eight infringing Samsung devices, including the Korean company's most popular US models. The forthcoming Galaxy Note II and the Samsung Galaxy S III are not yet targets of any sales injunctions, preserving Samsung's ability to capitalize on holiday buying. Samsung has vowed to take "all necessary measures," including making changes to the models, to avoid any chance of US bans on any of its current products.
The threat to sue over LTE technology is somewhat curious, given that Apple already has an LTE product on the market -- the latest iPad. Both it and any future iPhone are likely to use the same chipset and code for their LTE functionality, making the threat seem hollow. Reporter Erica Ogg of GigaOM believes Samsung is trying to scare Apple into a cross-licensing deal, where the iPad maker would license LTE patents to prevent lawsuits in exchange for Samsung licensing some of Apple's patents on the iPhone and iPad.
This scenario, however, seems as unlikely as the notion that Samsung would succeed in an LTE-patent lawsuit. Apple was handed a sweeping victory, and Samsung is facing up to $3.15 billion in damages (because it was found to be willfully infringing, the $1.05B award could be tripled). Apple had all of its patent claims asserted by the jury, while the same group found all of Samsung's patent claims invalid. Apple has also been largely successful in all the Samsung-related legal skirmishes to date, though a recent Korean court ruling found both Apple and Samsung infringing each other and banned a selection of devices from both companies.
Still, Apple might take advantage of Samsung's weakened position to settle matters between one of its top suppliers and bring the litigation rows to an end. Apple had previously offered a cross-licensing deal to Samsung (which it refused) before the trial began, and is currently said to be in talks with Google over Android issues raised by the recent legal disputes in an effort to end the lengthy and expensive legal processes, which now number over 50 individual disputes in 10 countries -- and that's just looking at Samsung-Apple cases.
Apple has an existing cross-licensing deal with Microsoft that could be used as a blueprint for a possible Apple-Samsung agreement: while MS has the right to use Apple innovations in its products (and vice-versa), MS also agreed to a strict "no copying" policy that has resulted in its Windows 8 and Windows Phone interfaces, markedly different from Apple's iOS and generally well-received by even its critics as the most original work Microsoft has done in user interfaces in decades. Though not yet a sales player, MS and its main partner Nokia are starting to see a small but growing customer base that appreciates a clear alternative to the industry-standard (and similar-looking) Android and iOS options.
The hearing to determine Apple's claims on the eight infringing Samsung devices -- along with another dozen or more that Apple intends to bring up later -- is set for early December. Since the trial defeat, Samsung has also announced at least two new devices -- the Ativ smartphone and tablet -- that will be running Microsoft's Windows Phone 8, widely seen as a trial move away from Android to avoid having the company's fortunes too closely tied to any one third-party supplier. Google has also been seen as trying to distance its OS from the results of the Samsung trial.