Samsung may have been “reeling” from last Friday’s verdict in its patent trial with Apple(s AAPL), but it looks like it’s regained its footing and looking for the next strategy. In a Korea Times article posted Wednesday, Samsung is threatening to fight back with another patent-related lawsuit of its own against Apple, this time over LTE patents. Samsung’s threat could be bluster, but it could also be a subtle call for a cross-licensing patent deal with Apple.
While Samsung spectacularly lost the patent fight over smartphone design and features, it still possesses the strongest patent portfolio in tech when it comes to mobile infrastructure IP. Even as it vows to challenge last week’s $1.05 billion jury verdict, the company is also brandishing a set of patents it could assert against Apple. According to the Korea Times:
Samsung confirmed that it will immediately sue Apple if the latter releases products using advanced long-term evolution (LTE) mobile technology. LTE has been emerging as the top standard in the global mobile industry.
Apple does not currently make any LTE-capable iPhones — though that is very likely to change in about a month or so when the new iPhone is likely to be released. Apple does, however, already make an LTE-capable device: the newest iPad, which comes with the option to add AT&T or Verizon 4G wireless service.
So why the sudden threat now, when Apple already has an LTE iPad? Samsung has one of the strongest patent portfolios when it comes to mobile. It owns more mobile communications patents in the U.S. and Europe combined than anyone. When it comes to mobile infrastructure in particular, Samsung is also the leader in patents, according to Chetan Sharma Consulting. What’s not clear is how powerful its LTE patent trove is.
It could be that Samsung is fishing around for a cross-licensing deal with Apple. In other words: instead of continuing the long and expensive appeals battle with Apple and risking having its devices possibly banned from the U.S. (and potentially having to pay triple the $1.05 billion damages for willful infringement), Samsung could try to coerce Apple into a truce. This would involve offering to license LTE patents to Apple while Samsung in turn would agree to license some of Apple’s patents covering the iPhone and iPad.
Cross-licensing is a fairly common way to end patent disputes — Apple has such a deal with Microsoft; Facebook and Yahoo signed one recently. It wasn’t one that Samsung was interested in before the trial; Apple already offered Samsung a cross-licensing deal before the current suit was ever filed, but Samsung did not agree to the (very pricey) terms. But now? It has a billion reasons — and perhaps a little leverage with a possible LTE iPhone — to consider one now.