Patent cases color mobile market, to continue in 2013

By Loek Essers, IDG News Service |  IT Management

Over the past year, patent battles have been fought by tech companies in courtrooms all over the world. The litigation is far from over though, however, and will continue throughout 2013. This is what's at stake on the patent battlefield in the near future.

The patent brouhaha reached its high point in August when a California District Court jury awarded a US$1 billion victory to Apple in a patent trial against Samsung over tablets and smartphones. Samsung is appealing the verdict and the two companies are continuing litigation in other countries too.

In Germany for instance, Apple and Samsung are still locked in several lawsuits over numerous patents. Apple for example asserts multiple touchscreen patents against Samsung in the German courts. On its part, Samsung is suing Apple in Germany and other E.U. countries over patents it claims are essential to certain telecommunication standards.

While Samsung recently announced that it was dropping requests for bans on sales of Apple products on the basis of those standard-essential patents, its lawsuits accusing Apple of infringing the patents are still in place and will continue in the next year, according to the company.

Samsung, however, is not the only company accusing competitors of infringing patents it has declared standard-essential.

Ericsson for instance filed two lawsuits against Samsung in the U.S. over patents which it claims are essential to implementation of a number of industry standards. The Swedish telecommunications equipment vendor said it had negotiated for over two years with Samsung to reach a licensing deal on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, as is often agreed to among telecoms companies.

When competitors can't agree on what is a fair and reasonable licensing price, disputes are often taken to the courts. To force Samsung to pay up, for example, Ericsson decided to target a variety of Samsung products such as cameras, Blu-ray Disc players and televisions, but also phones, including the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note II.

The judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas where the suits were filed could eventually decide to ban the sales of those Samsung devices in the U.S.

Shortly after the lawsuits were filed in Texas, Ericsson filed a similar complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), asking for an import ban of a wide range of Samsung products, including the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note. Both those cases will be dealt with after Jan. 1.

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