Thursday, April 28, 2011

Samsung now countersuing Apple in four countries on three continents

When I reported last Friday on Samsung's patent infringement countersuits against Apple in South Korea, Japan and Germany, I said that "it won't take long before we also see infringement accusations by Samsung against Apple in the US, most likely as counterclaims to Apple's lawsuit in the Northern District of California, and possibly beyond." Bingo! Today Samsung announced a lawsuit in that very district, alleging Apple's infringement of 10 patents.

Samsung is now suing Apple in four countries on three different continents. Here's my updated battlemap:

Apple vs Samsung 11.04.28

The file shown above has seven pages: the overview of the current situation; three slides that show the escalation that has occurred until today; and three pages with reference lists. If you are interested in seeing such battlemaps for other smartphone patent disputes, please have a look at my related folder or follow me there (it's a Twitter-like follower system). Or just follow me on Twitter, where I always announce new documents.

Asserted patents and accused products

You can find a list of the asserted patents and accused products in the reference section of the PDF file shown above, but I'll also list them here. These are the 10 Samsung patents asserted in the California complaint:

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,675,941 on a "Method and apparatus for transmitting/receiving packet data using pre-defined length indicator in a mobile communication system"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,362,867 on an "apparatus and method for generating scrambling code in UMTS mobile communication system"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,447,516 on a "method and apparatus for data transmission in a mobile telecommunication system supporting enhanced uplink service"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,200,792 on an "interleaving apparatus and method for symbol mapping in an HSDPA mobile communication system"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,386,001 on an "apparatus and method for channel coding and multiplexing in CDMA communication system"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,050,410 on an "apparatus and method for controlling a demultiplexer and a multiplexer used for rate matching in a mobile communication system"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,928,604 on a "turbo encoding/decoding device and method for processing frame data according to QOS"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,292,179 on a "software keyboard system using trace of stylus on a touch screen and method for recognizing key code using the same"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,009,626 on a "systems and methods for generating visual representations of graphical data and digital document processing"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,069,055 on a "mobile telephone capable of displaying world time and method for controlling the same"

All ten of those patents are allegedly infringed by (without limitation) "the Apple iPhone 3G, the Apple iPhone 3GS, the Apple iPhone 4, the iPad 3G, and the iPad 2 3G". For the last three patents ('179, '626, '055), Samsung additionally names the iPod Touch and the iPad and iPad2 (without 3G).

The first seven patents are related to communications standards such as W-CDMA (UMTS) while the other three patents are user interface patents. Samsung does not describe the standards-related patents as patents that are essential to any standards in the development of which Samsung was involved. I interpret Samsung's descriptions of the patented inventions as ways to increase the efficiency (such as data throughput) of data communications over such networks. Samsung does not indicate that it believes to have made a commitment to grant licenses to those patents on a reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) basis. Apple might disagree with that assessment and claim that Samsung has such obligations because of its membership in certain standard-setting organizations (an assertion that Apple also makes against Motorola, and which plays a key role in Apple's dispute with Nokia, who clearly described the first set of patents asserted against Apple back in September 2009 as standards-essential patents).

Other observations and next steps

Samsung is represented by a team of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan attorneys led by Charles Verhoeven, a first-rate patent litigator. He also helps two other major Android device makers, Motorola and HTC, in some of their Android-related lawsuits.

The speed with which Samsung responded to Apple's lawsuit in four different jurisdictions (in three of them within a week, and in the fourth one in less than two weeks) suggests that Samsung expected and, consequently, prepared for this. Apple's COO (and presently Acting CEO) Tim Cook said that Apple tried "for some time" to work out this matter with Samsung. Presumably Samsung already commenced a search for patents it could assert against Apple when a lawsuit appeared on the horizon as a possibility.

Similarly, it's possible -- and in my view fairly likely -- that Apple also made preparations for the next steps in this dispute. Samsung has mounted a swift and strong response to Apple's initiative. Now the ball is in Apple's corner, and I guess we'll soon see lawsuits filed by Apple against Samsung in several jurisdictions.

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