Remember that little patent squabble that NVIDIA and Samsung got into last year? Well some things have happened and they are not all that good for NVIDIA. If you have already forgotten about this incident (we do not blame you) we will fill you in. NVIDIA decided to file a complaint with the ITC against Samsung and Qualcomm. The claim was that Samsung was using technology that violated patents that they owned (programmable shaders, parallel processing etc.). NVIDIA also filed a patent law suit at the same time.
The US patent system is broken. There is not really much more to say about that it is and has been broken for many years and probably will continue to be broken for many years to come. Now why am I bringing this up? Well in looking over the way patents are filed, processed, and approved you will find that there are a large number of patents that are essentially the same thing just with a little twist. This type of patent allows for someone to put a legal hold on a very broad concept and then comeback and sue someone at a later date. Over the last few years we have watched a number of companies work the system with this type of patent and worse.
Apple has been granted leniency for infringing on Samsung’s standards essential patents (SEP). It seems that the White House decided that they just could not allow a ban even though the International Trade Commission ruled that Apple did in fact violate Samsung’s patents. Now bear in mind that these patents, because they are SEP, have to be offered under FRAND (Fair Reasonable, and Non Discriminatory) licensing agreements. This means that Samsung cannot charge outrageous fees to anyone as the SEP technologies are required to build certain devices. What it does not mean is that a company can refuse to pay any fees at all; this is what Apple did to Samsung at the same time they were trying to sue them in court for trade dress violations, a patent that claimed the shape of a smartphone, and other non-specific patents.
At almost every Apple event there was a big reveal at the end. This was typically preceded by Steve Jobs making saying “just one more thing”. Well Apple had an interesting day yesterday and in keeping with their pattern there is “just one more thing”. On top of the mountain of evidence that Apple coordinated the eBook price fixing deal with five publishers and the news that Apple iOS devices are susceptible to malware via their charging systems we are also hearing that Samsung has won a product ban against some Apple products from the International Trade Commission.
Apple’s iPhone 5 should launch tomorrow, but it might be a launch that is short lived if Samsung and HTC have anything to say about it. Both companies plan to aggressively pursue Apple over the use of Long Term Evolution (LTE) in their products HTC already has a complaint into the ITC. To make matters worse for Apple (who is trying the invalidation tactic now) Judge Thomas Pender has ruled that HTC’s patents are most likely valid saying “Clear and convincing means something to me. I have to be pretty darn certain a U.S. patent is invalid”. Apple has also tried to claim that HTC only bought the patents to sue Apple. Judge Pender was quick with the reply: “I don't care if they bought these patents to sue you or not. They are a property right”.
There are times in the market when we see one player stand out and start to impact the performance of all the players in the group. We saw this when Rambus started suing everyone over patents they filed for while part of the JDEC standards setting group. It was a serious time in the industry and everyone learned to hate the name RAMBUS simply because of their over aggressive patents and their legal attacks around the world. Now Rambus is a shell of its former self and most of those patents are expired. The rest of the world has moved on and created new standards that RAMBUS does not have any license to.
Apple is facing a new legal threat and they have not even gotten out of the one they are in with rival Samsung. The new suit, which has been filed by Google-owned Motorola Mobility, will sound very familiar. Moto claims that Apple has been using their patented technology in the iPhone, iPad and other product without paying for it. Just as with Samsung, Moto claims that they approached Apple about these but Apple rejected the terms and has gone on using the patents in their products since.
We have been saying for a number of years now, but the Patent System is broken. Now the FTC might be starting to agree with some of the sentiment that we have been hearing from many media outlets. In a very important move the FTC feels that the continued request for import and sales bans whenever there is a patent dispute is causing “substantial harm” to consumers.
In news that surprises no one HTC has filed a complaint and suit against Apple today for… you guessed it Patent Infringement. All of this began not too long ago when Apple started its campaign against Android Phone makers claiming that Samsung, HTC and a few others have violated Apple’s patents on various functions and even the look and feel of their method of finger scrolling. Apple has one the first round in many of these cases, but things seem to be turning around.
It has recently come to light that Apple’s evidence in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 case is inaccurate. Apple’s legal team knowingly or accidentally submitted false evidence to show that the Tab was a copy of the iPad and iPad2. We do not know the outcome of this incident yet (but we are keeping our eyes open) but it is probably not going to be good for Apple.
Meanwhile HTC has just announced that it is filing its own patent suit against Apple that covers not only the iPad, iPhone and iPod but also every MAC computer with wireless technology that has “Wi-Fi capability that allows users to wirelessly network multiple devices at home, at work, or in public” as covered by US Patent 7,417,944. There is more to the complaint and suit which covers three specific patents (U.S. Patent Nos. 7,417,944, and 7,672,219 and 7,765,414). This is interesting as HTC has not even broken out their S3 Patents yet. These patents came from a purchase of ADC Telecommunications Patents back in April of this year that cover many wireless and even 4G technologies. ADC was later bought by Tyco Electronics (which became TE Connectivity) who sold its wireless communication division to Harris Corp.
Now think about this, if the ADC Telecommunications patents do not cut it they can always push for action based on the new S3 Patents HTC has recently picked up. As we said a couple of days ago; things are getting rather interesting.
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