Will Samsung's strong LTE patent portfolio hurt Apple's next iPhone sales?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| June 8, 2012

If you thought the mobile patent wars would quickly subside once Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility was completed, think again. Even with previous patent lawsuits settled, others coming to a close and some even being thrown out, Apple still shows no sights of slowing down.

Multiple HTC devices, such as the HTC One X and EVO 4G LTE, were held up in U.S. Customs due to an International Trade Commission (ITC) exclusion order. Due to a complaint from Apple in December, the HTC devices had to be inspected to ensure the software had been updated and no longer infringed on an Apple patent. And just this Wednesday, Apple filed yet another complaint with the International Trade Commission, claiming 29 of HTC's devices infringe on another patent.

Also on Wednesday, we learned that Apple asked to add Samsung's highly-anticipated flagship device, the Galaxy S III, to a preliminary injuction against the Galaxy Nexus. Apple obtained a Galaxy S III and feels it "clearly infringes at least two" of its patents. Those two patents, as our own Alex explains, are:

"#8,086,604, related to unified search, and #5,946,647, which is the same 'data tapping' patent mentioned in the new ITC complaint against HTC and the complaint from back in December."

Apple feels it is "clear that infringement can be shown" and it wants an injunction placed as soon as possible. It notes there have been more than nine million pre-orders sold and states the injunction should be placed before the pending U.S. launch of the Galaxy S III. 

While Apple has filed patent lawsuits against a multitude of different Android manufacturers, Samsung has taken the brunt of the blow, being on the receiving end of an endless barrage of infringement lawsuits and having had numerous devices banned in several countries. But that may come back and haunt Apple if the assertions of Florian Mueller of popular patent site FOSS Patents are correct. Mueller predicts that Samsung will fight fire with napalm, primarily targeting Apple's forthcoming iPhone.

What could Samsung possibly have on the next iPhone? How could they fight back? LTE-related patents.

Apple's upcoming iPhone is rumored to come with LTE compatibility in tow. But as Brad Reed of BGR notes, research firm iRunway released a study earlier this year that revealed Samsung and Qualcomm as the leaders in the LTE patent space. Reed says:

"Consider that Samsung holds nearly 10% of all LTE-related patents and just over 12% of what iRunway dubs 'seminal patents' — that is, patents that are most likely to be used in suit. iRunway used a wide variety of metrics to determine what constitutes a seminal patent, including a patent’s age, its infringement detectability, and the number of instances that the patented technology is used by other firms. Any way you cut it, though, Samsung holds the most cards in the realm of LTE intellectual property."

"All of the companies making handsets will want to stay away from Samsung," said iRunway's Animesh Kumar. "Samsung can get aggressive and start hitting all these guys.”

The assumption is that Samsung, much like an executive said it would last year against the iPhone 5 in Korea, will file for an injunction on the next iPhone. Except this time, instead of only threatening to file in Korea, Samsung could launch a full-scale war on the next iPhone if it uses LTE technology.

If Samsung were granted an injunction against the yet-to-be-announced iPhone here in the States (or in any other country, for that matter), it could seriously affect Apple's sales projections for Q3 and for the year. But more important than that would be a major victory and a turning of the tides for Samsung in this drawn-out battle.

So far, Apple has been bullying and slapping its competitors around over petty patents and design infringement claims. They've definitely made more enemies than friends and have upset millions of consumers over delayed or banned Android products. With Samsung owning a large sum of LTE patents and Google having Motorola's 17,000 patents in its portfolio, things could get very interesting in this ongoing patent war over the next few months.

To be completely honest, I don't want any more phones or tablets delayed, banned or yanked from shelves over this petty patent nonsense. Not the iPhone, not the Galaxy S III or any more One devices. But as long as this patent war goes on, I will be happy to see the sides leveling out and someone else throwing punches for a change.

Tell me, readers. How would you feel if Samsung were granted an injunction over LTE patent infringement by Apple's iPhone? Is it time another company swings back at Apple with significant force? Or do you just hope these patent wars will just fade away already?

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