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LTE patents could be next round of Apple-Samsung war: brokerage

2012/09/12 17:06:38

Taipei, Sept. 12 (CNA) The patent war between Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. is likely to extend into the fourth-generation wireless broadband sector, Daiwa Securities Capital Markets said in a note Tuesday.

The Japanese brokerage believes long-term evolution (LTE) technology could be the next battleground in a patent war between the two electronics giants that has spanned four continents.

"At this stage, Apple still seems to be taking a hard line against 'rip-offs.' Patents and patent litigation represent a new battleground," Daiwa analysts wrote in the note.

Perhaps in anticipation of the next phase of the patent wars, Apple has been acquiring LTE-related patents in the past two years, the analysts said.

"Samsung already has a large portfolio of LTE patents, while HTC may have the upper hand in a U.S. suit with Apple concerning two LTE-related patents," they said.

The Korea Intellectual Property Office said South Korea-based Samsung had 819 LTE patents as of August this year, nearly twice as many as owned by Apple.

The office said Apple has only developed 44 of the 318 LTE patents it holds, with the rest bought from Canadian phone-equipment maker Nortel Networks Inc. and U.S. chip maker Freescale Semiconductor Inc. last year.

Rockstar Bidco, an intellectual property-related consortium in which Apple holds a majority stake, holds another 116 LTE patents, giving Apple a total of 434 in all.

According to the Korea Times, Samsung may file a lawsuit against Apple following the launch of the iPhone 5 if the smartphone uses LTE technology.

Samsung has a large number of LTE-related patents and has been in talks with major U.S. telecom operators to develop jointly modified-design technology for LTE services, the South Korean newspaper said, citing unnamed industry sources.

Meanwhile, it appears that Apple may be frustrated in its attempts in the U.S. to challenge two U.S. patents on LTE owned by Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp., Daiwa analysts said.

On Sept. 6, a U.S. trade judge said the two patents in question were essential to LTE technology, and the judge's comments suggested he was unlikely to invalidate them.

Florian Mueller, a patent law expert who writes the FOSS Patents blog focusing on mobile software patent news, reported four days later that Apple and HTC have been involved in court-ordered settlement talks in recent weeks.

"In the event that HTC is successful in this case, the company could conceivably push for import bans on the iPad and iPhone, potentially giving it a bargaining chip in any settlement discussions with Apple," Daiwa analysts said.

Aside from direct negotiations between the handset players, another option would be for Google Inc. to negotiate cross-licensing agreements with Apple and Microsoft Corp., the analysts said.

In such a scenario, most smartphone makers would continue to focus on Google's Android software and pay the related royalties, which might give an edge to some Chinese smartphone makers that would produce the devices without paying such fees, they said.

(By Jeffrey Wu)
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