Apple may have won the battle, but it hasn’t won the war—-at least this is probably what Samsung is currently thinking. After being ordered by a jury to pay Apple US$1.05 billion in damages for copyright infringement last August, the South Korean smartphone maker decided to fire back by suing Apple for using its Long-Term Evolution patents in the recently announced iPhone 5.
According to a report by The Korea Times, Samsung confirmed that it will “immediately” sue Apple if it releases products that use LTE technology. For the uninitiated, LTE is marketed as 4G LTE, a wireless communication standard that’s faster and more advanced than the current 3G speeds being used in mobile phones today.
Based on figures from Thomson Reuters, Samsung only has 12.2 per cent of LTE patents. If there’s a company that should sue Apple for infringement, it’s supposed to be Nokia, which has the most number of LTE patents at 18.9 per cent. Qualcomm has 12.5 per cent of patents, while Ericsson has 11.6 per cent.
This impending court case over the LTE patents is just one of the many lawsuits between the two technology giants. As of last July, the patent war between Samsung and the Cupertino-based Apple spanned over 50 lawsuits all over the world.
Interestingly, this relationship between the two companies isn’t limited to the courtroom. Bloomberg revealed that Apple also is Samsung’s largest customer, bringing in 7.6 per cent of the Seoul-based manufacturer’s profits in 2011. Apple, on the other hand, is dependent on Samsung’s electronic parts for the iPhone and iPad.
Apple is also currently wrangling with other smartphone makers like HTC and Motorola over other patent disputes.
The real target
If you look past the recent headlines however, you’ll notice that all these lawsuits are merely incidental because Apple’s real target is Android, the operating system made by Google. Before iconic Apple chief executive Steve Jobs passed away in October 2011, he talked about Apple’s patent war with his biographer Walter Isaacson and had a few choice words for Android:
“Our lawsuit is saying, ‘Google, you f–king ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off,'” said Jobs. He added: “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s US$40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong.
Here’s Job’s most quotable quote:
“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
But wait. While all the drama is fascinating, let’s not ignore its implications. Whichever side wins, it’s the consumer that would be facing a market of fewer and more expensive smartphones. Let’s hope that it won’t come to that. Then again, maybe all these lawsuits would bring about even more innovation since smartphone makers would be forced to create something different. Keep your fingers crossed.