Is no-one winning the Samsung-Apple patent war?

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Is no-one winning the Samsung-Apple patent war?


It’s been almost ten months since Apple first took Samsung Electronics to court alleging its products violated its patent last April.

Since then, a worldwide tit-for-tat war has ensued and consumers are finding it hard to keep track of which company sued which, in which country, on what products.

On Thursday, Apple requested a ban on sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone in the U.S, claiming that the device - a highly-touted smartphone that runs on Google’s latest platform, called Ice Cream Sandwich - violates four of its patents.

A couple of hours later, however, it experienced a setback in Germany when the Dusseldorf Regional Court rejected its request to block sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1N, a week after it lost a similar attempt over a technology patent in a Munich court.


Losing battle?

Some market watchers in Korea have started to raise doubts over the point of patent war, which now amounts to about 30 different lawsuits in 10 countries. Critics say the legal battles are doing neither of the parties any good.

News reports point out how the “attackers” in each battle - the company that initiated the suit - are losing in one suit after another. In other words, courts are rejecting claims by plaintiffs and sympathizing with the defending party.

They note that among dozens of lawsuits, in only three cases has a given a victory to the plaintiff.

In August, a German court ordered a temporary ban on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and a Dutch court approved one of Apple’s ten requests for an injunction on Samsung products. In October, an Australian court ordered a temporary ban on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1

But they say the effects of these rulings were limited. Samsung tweaked the features of the tablet and circumvented the German ruling; the Dutch ruling concerned only one of Apple’s ten requests; and the Australian court reversed its ruling later, allowing Samsung to sell the device in the country after all.

“I have repeatedly voiced criticism of Apple’s (and Samsung’s) various (and largely unsuccessful) attempts to win preliminary injunctions,” tech-watcher Florian Mueller, who has been closely following the war, said on FOSS Patents, his blog. “I didn’t like that approach and I doubted its effectiveness.”

Mannheim factor

Some market watchers note how both companies have benefited somewhat from headlines in the war raising their brand recognition.

According to market researcher Strategy Analytics, Samsung increased its share in the global smartphone market from just 8 percent in 2010 to 19.9 percent last year, while Apple also increased its share from 15.9 percent to 19 percent in the same period.

“They basically spent the money they usually spend on marketing in paying their attorneys,” one watcher said. “As they appeared to be fighting and competing, they both enjoyed the media spotlight.”

In fact, in an ad in Australia’s Sun-Herald newspaper, Samsung promoted its Galaxy Tab 10.1 as “The Tablet that Apple Tried to Stop,” taking advantage of the publicity enjoyed in the patent war.

Still, analysts say that an upcoming ruling from a court in Mannheim, Germany on March 2 should have an impact on the industry.

In the suit, Samsung alleges that Apple infringed upon three of its mobile technology patents, but the court ruled in favor of Apple already on two of the patents.

Should Samsung lose, its claim that Apple violated its wireless technology patents would be denied and that could have an impact on other suits in neighboring European countries.

If Apple loses it will have to pay hefty sums to Samsung in royalties on the technology.

“Until now, few of the suits in the Apple-Samsung patent battle affected the market significantly, but the Mannheim ruling could,” said Lee Seon-tae, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities. Some analysts say the two titans could reconcile after the ruling, possibly in an out-of-court settlement. In June, Apple agreed with Nokia to license its wireless phone patents following two years of legal bickering and over 40 lawsuits.

By Kim Hyung-eun []

Samsung’s win Apple’s win ongoing

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