Apple Hit With 4 New Patents By Samsung, But Backs Off iPhone 4S For Now

BY Yatri

Published 18 Dec 2011

iPad vs Galaxy Tab

Apple has been hit with four new patents by Samsung in the Mannheim Regional Court, while it has decided to back off a complaint regarding baseband chips used in iPhone 4S for now.

The Apple-Samsung patent war continues. FOSSPatents reports:

With the help of two additional law firms, Samsung is now suing Apple over four more patents in Mannheim, in addition to three that were already asserted in April. Apple, for its part, is suing Samsung over six patents in Mannheim.

I’ll list Samsung’s four new patents further below. One of them is, ironically, a smiley input patent. The four new patents include two FRAND patents and two unencumbered patents. The smiley patent is part of the latter group.

In total, there are over a dozen patents (including the ones from April) that are being disputed in the German courts between Apple and Samsung. The four new patents that were brought in by Samsung include two FRAND-pledged ones. FRAND-pledging, or the requirement for licensing to be “free, reasonable, and non-discriminatory,” applies to patents that are “essential” to standards, like the 3G patent in Motorola vs. Apple. FOSSPatents points out that this is surprising, primarily because the European Commission has a preliminary investigation into the grounds of abuse of standards-essential patents. These two patents are:

  • EP1720373, which describes a “method and apparatus for reporting inter-frequency measurement using RACH message in a communication system” ; US equivalent Patent No. 2006/0252377
  • EP1679803, which describes a “method for configuring gain factors for uplink service in radio telecommunication system” ; US equivalent Patent No. 7,668,563

There are also two patents that aren’t related to standards. One, DE10040386, is about converting data shown on a mobile phone display into loudspeaker output, and the other, EP1215867, is related to the input of emoticons.

FOSSPatents predicts how Apple will respond, based on how complicated things are:

I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple decided to respond to this escalation by bringing several additional patent infringement lawsuits against Samsung in Germany. Since Apple already has six lawsuits going against Samsung in Mannheim, it might start a few new ones in Munich. Apple is also suing Motorola and HTC in both regional courts in parallel. And in a third one (Düsseldorf), Apple has its design-related litigation going with Samsung. Two hearings are scheduled in those litigations for next week.

 At the same time, Samsung has decided to back off of litigation on Qualcomm chipset-based devices. Currently, that only includes the iPhone 4S. They are keeping their options open, though.

While Samsung positioned this as what could have been a mere clarification rather than a modification of the claims, Apple’s counsel asked the court to treat this as a voluntary partial dismissal of the case and asked the court to impose the related costs, under the German loser-pays principle, on Samsung.

German lawsuits allow for partial and whole withdrawals of lawsuits without prejudice before the decisive part of the hearing begins so long as the defendant agrees to it, and then these claims can be brought in again in another lawsuit. Samsung claims that the move is largely for streamlining their case, while FOSSPatents argues that that streamlining is a defensive tactic itself. Most importantly, though, Samsung did not waive any of its rights to regarding baseband patent assertions for the iPhone 4S, and it can make claims in the future.

On a related note, a French court last week denied Samsung’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the iPhone 4S on the grounds of Apple’s use of Qualcomm’s chipset. Qualcomm and Samsung had a license agreement, and Apple benefits from that same agreement by using Qualcomm’s chipset. This may be why Samsung is keeping the iPhone 4S out of its claims in Germany for now.

In addition, there were two hearing given. The first was on Samsung’s lawsuit with Apple over patent EP1188269, on an “apparatus for encoding a transport format combination indicator for a communication system.” Essentially, the key word is “generate.” If Apple is reading the code off of tables instead of generating them somehow, then it doesn’t necessarily infringe on the patent. While Samsung thinks it does, Apple doesn’t and the court seems to be siding with Apple on this one. The decision for this will be held on March 2, 2012.

The second hearing was over Apple’s lawsuit with Samsung over EP1964022, the “slide to unlock” patent. FOSSPatents says that the definition of “unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image” might be less broad than Apple thinks. The central issue is surrounding the “path.”

The issue here is that the patent covers the concept of moving (by way of a sliding movement) an imagine along a pre-defined, displayed path. Judge Voß said that the common understanding of a path is not just a starting point and an end point, but really a depiction of the way from A to B.

While I agree with the judge that a trail map would show more than just a starting point and a destination (he used a mountain summit as an example), the size of a touchscreen is such that a start point and an end path really are all that even the most obtuse user would need to know to figure out a way from A to B.

For more information, check out the FOSSPatents blog for the fully detailed description.

[via FOSSPatents]