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Samsung revealed on Wednesday that it would try to stop the release of Apple’s new iPhone 4S (s aapl) in France and Italy with filings seeking injunctions on the new smartphone. Samsung’s complaints (via WSJ) will center on two instances of alleged patent infringement related to WCDMA standards for 3G connectivity.
The patents in question are considered “essential,” which means that Samsung has an obligation to license them to any competitor on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms in the EU. Samsung has previously attempted to block the sale of Apple products on similar grounds in the Netherlands. In that case Apple argued that it had been attempting to comply with the FRAND licensing requirement but was still in the process of negotiations with Samsung based on price. A preliminary decision on the validity of Samsung’s complaint is expected next week.
It was a move that Apple likely saw coming, as reports have surfaced recently that this was indeed what Samsung had planned to do. It also makes sense that Samsung would want to retaliate against the multiple injunction attempts that Apple has consistently aimed at Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Galaxy smartphone devices in various global markets.
Samsung’s statement claims that the infringement embodied by the iPhone 4S is simply “too severe,” necessitating that the device be barred from sales. The company claims to have chosen Italy and France for its initial filings because the countries represent “key markets” and also cited their specific legal systems and procedures as reasons behind the choice. France is part of Apple’s initial launch group of countries for the 4S, which will receive the new iPhone on Oct. 14, while Italy is part of the second group, which should see the 4S launch at the end of October.
I’d say this fight is getting ugly, but the truth is that it’s already been that way for a long time. FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller thinks that Samsung’s attempts in this case go beyond just ugly and venture into dangerous territory. He says that while it’s “most likely” that these complaints related to FRAND patents “will fail,” the implications if they succeed are bad, since they could destabilize the tech industry by weakening what amounts to a barrier to rampant infringement claims. Essential patents are considered necessary to a category of device, so if companies can successfully file suit without exhausting all possible FRAND negotiations, it could make it much harder for both existing players and newcomers without strong patent portfolios to compete.