Yet Another Mobile Phone Patent Lawsuit: Ericsson vs. Samsung
On Tuesday, Ericsson, a world leader in mobile phone networking equipment, filed another lawsuit against Samsung (South Korean based) for patent infringement. The Swedish-based Ericsson filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas, the same court that found Apple in violation of VirnetX patents last month. The lawsuit alleges that Samsung infringed on twenty-four of Ericsson’s patents, including patents for GSM, GPRS, 3G, and LTE mobile phones.
Ericsson and Samsung have been negotiating the renewal of an expired license for Ericsson’s telecommunication patents for almost two years. Samsung, according to Ericsson, has refused to sign an agreement on “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms,” thus giving them an “unfair competitive advantage over [their] competitors.” Samsung previously licensed Ericsson’s standard-essential patents in 2001 (renewed in 2007, after a 2006 lawsuit). Ericsson currently has over 100 agreements with other major mobile phone companies and believes that FRAND licensing creates an “incentive for companies to contribute technology to open standards,” while still maintaining reasonable royalty rates.
The lawsuit is a negotiation tactic, designed to raise the pressure on Samsung; according to Kasim Alfalahi, Ericsson’s chief intellectual-property officer, Ericsson has “turned to litigation as a last resort.” Samsung stated that Ericsson “demanded prohibitively higher” rates for the patents in negotiations, and it will take all “legal measures to protect against Ericsson’s excessive claims.” Ironically, Samsung is using the same FRAND argument in their own ongoing litigation against Apple, thus Ericsson has significant material from that litigation to support its higher FRAND royalty rates and sales bans. Ericsson sued ZTE (a Chinese cellphone maker) alleging similar infringement claims in April 2011, but it was settled later that year.
Hopefully this case will end in a settlement for a renegotiated licensing agreement, rather than a court decision; a win for Ericsson could result in numerous Samsung products being pulled from the shelves in the U.S. since Ericsson is seeking an injunction against all infringing Samsung products.
The case is Ericsson v. Samsung Electronics, 6:12-cv-00984, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).