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patent lawsuit

Samsung has added iPhone 5 to a US patent lawsuit claiming the latest Apple’s handset infringes eight of its technologies.

The disputed innovations include a way to synchronize photos, music and video files across several devices, and a method to capture and send video over the internet.

Samsung had already filed claims against earlier iPhones and iPads.

It coincides with calls from a judge for “major reforms” to US patent law.

Judge Richard Posner, who previously oversaw a legal dispute involving Apple and Google’s Motorola unit, said that protection available to software patents was “excessive”.

Samsung’s legal move is the latest in a long running battle with Apple.

Apple has claimed that the Galaxy device maker copied the look and iOS system software found on its tablets and handsets.

Although several of Apple’s claims have been rejected, it recently scored a major victory when a California-based jury ruled Samsung should pay it over $1 billion in damages.

Samsung has had its own courtroom successes, including a ruling in August that Apple had infringed two of its wireless communication patents in South Korea. It resulted in an order for the iPhone maker to pay 40 million won ($35,000) in damages.

The US lawsuit involving the iPhone 5 dates back to April when a complaint about other devices was filed in the Northern District of California. The case is due to go to trial in March 2014.

It involves two so-called Frand patents – technologies Samsung has an obligation to licence on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms because they are recognized as being essential to data transmission standards. In other words, if Apple agrees to pay what is deemed to be a fair rate then Samsung will be obliged to let it use the technologies.

The other six disputed innovations are feature patents, and in theory Samsung could force Apple’s products off the shelves if it does not remove the functions from the devices.

Patent consultant Florian Mueller listed details of the disputed patents on his blog earlier this year, noting that Samsung owned about 30,000 US patents in total. Several of these include 4G LTE technologies which the Seoul-based company has hinted could be the basis of further lawsuits.

HTC, Motorola, Microsoft, RIM and other tech firms are also involved in ongoing US lawsuits.

Legal experts have expressed concern at some of the tactics being used, including Judge Richard Posner who threw out a case involving Motorola and Apple in June, rebuking both firms.

He has now followed this up with a blog post in which he calls for an overhaul of the law regarding software patents.

“Nowadays most software innovation is incremental, created by teams of software engineers at modest cost, and also ephemeral – most software innovations are quickly superseded,” he wrote.

“Software innovation tends to be piecemeal – not entire devices, but components, so that a software device (a cellphone, a tablet, a laptop, etc) may have tens of thousands of separate components (bits of software code or bits of hardware), each one arguably patentable.

“The result is huge patent thickets, creating rich opportunities for trying to hamstring competitors by suing for infringement – and also for infringing, and then challenging the validity of the patent when the patentee sues you.”

The judge said that 20-year-long patent protection made sense for pharmaceutical drugs which require development costs running to hundreds of millions of dollars, need extensive testing and subsequently remain on the market for decades.

He said such factors did not apply to software, adding that a firm that invented a new technology would benefit from being the first to use it and would also gain a reputation for innovation.

“My general sense… bolstered by an extensive academic literature, is that patent protection is on the whole excessive and that major reforms are necessary,” he wrote.

The tech news site Ars Technica, which was first to report the blog, noted that Judge Posner did not have the power to shape US patent policy, but added that his views were likely to be discussed by policymakers.


Google has announced that it does not want the ruling in the Apple-Samsung patent lawsuit to “limit” consumers’ access to Android devices.

A US jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple over $1 billion on Friday after ruling it had infringed several of the iPhone maker’s software and design innovations.

Samsung said it intended to appeal.

There has been speculation that the news could encourage handset makers to install the rival Windows Phone system.

Google released its statement late on Sunday in the US.

“The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims,” it said.

“Most of these don’t relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the US Patent Office.

“The mobile industry is moving fast and all players – including newcomers – are building upon ideas that have been around for decades. We work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don’t want anything to limit that.”

Google has announced that it does not want the ruling in the Apple-Samsung patent lawsuit to "limit" consumers' access to Android devices

Google has announced that it does not want the ruling in the Apple-Samsung patent lawsuit to "limit" consumers' access to Android devices

Apple has indicated it will seek sales bans on the 17 phones at the heart of the lawsuit at a hearing on 20 September.

The list does not include Samsung’s current flagship handset, the Galaxy S3, but does include earlier versions of the model.

However, Apple could also use the verdict to try to halt sales of other models that infringe its pinch-to-zoom patent.

During the court case Apple revealed it had licensed some of its technologies to Microsoft. Its lawyers also showed pictures of Nokia’s Lumia – which runs Windows Phone 7 – as an example of a handset that looked distinctive from its own.

In contrast, Apple continues to be involved in lawsuits against two other Android-handset makers: Motorola – which is owned by Google – and HTC.

Following the Samsung verdict, Bill Cox, marketing director for Microsoft’s Windows Phone Division tweeted: “Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now.”

Dell, HTC, Samsung, LG and ZTE have already created Windows Phone 7 devices, but only Nokia has concentrated its efforts on the system.

One analyst said that the US ruling presented Microsoft with an opportunity to convince others to put their weight behind the next version of its mobile system.

“I think this will force a reset on Android products as they are re-engineered to get around Apple’s patents,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the tech consultancy Enderle Group.

“[It should also] provide a stronger opportunity for both of Microsoft’s new platforms – Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – because they come with indemnification against Apple, suddenly making them far safer.”

However, manufacturers will have to weigh up Android’s popularity before making a move.

According to recent data from analysts at IDC, Android had a 68.1% of the global smartphone market between April and June. Apple’s iOS had 16.9% and Windows Phone/Windows Mobile had 5.4%. The data was based on shipments rather than sales.

If Apple’s patents hold up under appeal Google could recode Android to ensure there was no potential infringement, or handset makers could seek to pay their rival a licence fee.

And there is another alternative: Apple could ultimately seek a patent cross-licensing deal with Google despite its late chief executive Steve Jobs’ vow to “destroy Android”.

Part-way through the Samsung case Google filed its first lawsuit versus Apple since taking over Motorola. It alleged seven patent infringements, one of which involves the technology used in the iPhone’s Siri voice-activated search tool.

Were Google to succeed it could call for a import ban on Apple’s iOS products, potentially forcing its rival into a deal.

The case is driving share prices in a number of technology stocks.

Samsung’s shares fell 7.5% in Seoul on Monday – their biggest drop since October 2008, wiping about $12 billion off the companies value.

Nokia’s shares rose about 10% on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

In New York, Apple’s stock was about 2% higher in pre-market trade, Microsoft’s about 1% up and Google’s about 1% down.