Apple gets a break as EU antitrust watchdog launches full-blown probe into Samsung over essential 3G patents

European Union regulators today announced the launch of a formal investigation of Samsung over mobile patents to determine whether the South Korean conglomerate breached EU antitrust rules in its legal dealings with competitors. The investigation is focused on so-called FRAND patents, a common rule that stipulates a patent applying to the standard must be adopted on “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms” (FRAND). According to the press release, EU regulators want to figure out whether Samsung “used certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”

The Commission reminds that Samsung a decade ago promised to let rivals license its mobile patents under FRAND terms. The full-blown investigation comes in the light of the lawsuits Samsung filed against Apple at courts in Germany, France, the Netherlands and other countries around the world, asserting copyright infringement related to patents essential to wireless telecommunications standards.

The case is “a matter of priority,” the document reads. Patent blogger explained, “The European Commission can’t wait until Samsung finally wins a ruling based on such a patent and enforces it, potentially causing irreparable harm.” The full text of the European Commission Antitrust Commission announcement can be found below.

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Apple unveils micro USB adapter for iPhones in Europe

It’s been long time coming and it’s finally here. The U.K. online Apple Store now lists the Apple iPhone Micro USB Adapter, available for £8.00 and shipping October 14. From Apple:

The Apple iPhone Micro USB Adapter allows you to use third-party micro USB cables and chargers to sync or charge your iPhone. Simply connect your iPhone to the Micro USB Adapter, then connect a micro USB cable or charger to the Micro USB Adapter

Standards bodies in Europe had agreed last year that all mobile phones sold in Europe should drop proprietary connectors in favor of standard USB jacks. Apple’s been ignoring the initiative up to the point when some watchers questioned whether the European Union should fine the Cupertino, California-based gadget maker.

As it turns out, Apple has elegantly addressed those concerns with this dongle. What it does for Apple is it lets them follow the letter of the law without redesigning the iPhone or, worse, risk incompatibility problems with a billion dollar ecosystem of accessories that take advantage of Apple’s 30-pin dock connector.

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Ahead of the launch, Samsung wants iPhone 5 banished from Korea


An artist’s rendition of iPhone 5.

The Korea Times reports that Samsung “is seeking a complete ban” on the iPhone 5 sales in Korea – even before the handset is even released, let alone officially announced. Local carriers KT and SK Telecom have so far sold about 3.1 million iPhones in the country. The paper quotes an unnamed Samsung senior executive:

Just after the arrival of the iPhone 5 here, Samsung plans to take Apple to court here for its violation of Samsung’s wireless technology related patents. For as long as Apple does not drop mobile telecommunications functions, it would be impossible for it to sell its i-branded products without using our patents. We will stick to a strong stance against Apple during the lingering legal fights.

Another Samsung executive is “quite confident” about “a big breakthrough” provided Samsung wins in Germany, adding that “so will other envisioned efforts against such products as the iPhone 5″. The report goes on to mention that iPhone sports an LG Display-made screen, LG Innotek’s eight-megapixel camera, Samsung-made NAND flash and A5 chip and an NFC chip for wireless payment.

The twist in this case, of course, is the fact that Apple is Samsung’s biggest customer, buying displays, NAND flash memory and custom-built A4 and A5 chips for its products. It has been reported that Samsung may soon lose its iOS device processor contract as Apple turns to rival TSMC.

The manufacturing relationship means Samsung gets information about the innards of Apple’s non-released devices months before the actual manufacturing ramp up. This early access to Apple’s designs could have led Samsung to move with the iPhone 5 ban in Korea ahead of Apple’s official launch. On the other hand, Apple did not accuse Samsung yet of abusing its manufacturing contract to rip off Apple’s upcoming devices with its own products.

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Samsung targets iOS devices in France as Apple puts brakes on Motorola until Google merger is completed


This is a Samsung-branded Windows 8 tablet Microsoft is giving away to BUILD attendees today. 

The latest in the ongoing patent saga involving Apple, Google, Motorola and Samsung includes an unexpected twist as Samsung goes after iPhone and iPad with a complaint filed before a Paris district court in July. The filing alleges infringement of Samsung’s three technology patents, reports AFP. The first hearing is expected in December of this year.

Meanwhile, patent expert Florian Müller notes on his blog FOSSPatents that Apple has filed motions to temporarily halt two Motorola lawsuits until Google completes its $12.5 billion acquisition, which shook the technology world last month. Put simply, Apple argues Motorola waived its rights to sue when it transferred patents to Google. Apple wrote:

To further its pending acquisition by Google, Motorola has surrendered critical rights in the patents-in-suit, such that Motorola no longer has prudential standing to pursue this action. According to the publicly-filed Merger Agreement, Motorola has ceded control of the most basic rights regarding the patents-in-suit

As you know, Google has transferred some of the Motorola patents to HTC, in addition to the ones acquired from Palm and Openwave Systems. HTC then used those patents to counter-sue Apple. Back to Apple vs. Samsung…

Financial Times today opined that Samsung needs to hit the reset button, predicting a licensing agreement of sorts provided Apple succeeds in blocking Galaxy products in the U.S. next month. Contrary to the reports, the publication thinks “Apple is restricted from taking its chip business to Samsung’s rivals in Taiwan because Samsung offers a complete package of components that other firms cannot match”. However, there are indications that Apple’s been lowering Samsung orders for some time and it’s widely believed the company is eager to take its silicon business to TSMC beginning next year.

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Wow, Apple actually got Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 banned in Germany

The verdict is in.  German consumers won’t soon be able to pick up a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

A Dusseldorf court today upheld the temporary sales ban it issued Aug. 9, rejecting Samsung’s bid to overturn it for the most part. The judges won’t ban sales in other European Union countries as Apple had sought, Presiding Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann said when delivering the verdict.

The judge stopped at German borders instead of issuing a full EU wide ban but further rulings could see the ban spread.

“The court is of the opinion that Apple’s minimalistic design isn’t the only technical solution to make a tablet computer, other designs are possible,” Brueckner-Hofmann said. “For the informed customer there remains the predominant overall impression that the device looks” like the design Apple has protected in Europe.

The ruling is a big victory for Apple and as the Verge puts it, “the decision could foreshadow the future of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7 and, honestly, any number of rectangular-shaped tablets in Germany as well.”

FOSSPatents mentions some other “oddities” which could play a role in the widening scope of the case:

 The Community design that the Düsseldorf Regional Court deems valid and infringed was also presented by Apple in its Dutch proceeding, but a judge in The Hague threw it out.

If the face of the Galaxy Tab is what is at issue, it isn’t Samsung that is at fault, it is Android.  Cross-posted at 9to5Google.

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Apple’s EU Honeycomb sue-age may carry a huge risk

Yesterday, Apple blocked Samsung’s Galaxy Tab in the EU as it had in Australia previously. Today, it is blocking Motorola’s XOOM.

According to Reuters, this is a high risk strategy for Apple maintaining its market share lead. The cases could take months, if not years to come to court and Apple will have to provide more substantial evidence in subsequent court cases that the design of the Galaxy infringed its patents or copied their designs in order to make any bans permanent. So, they aren’t done deals. And if Apple Loses, it will owe Samsung a lot of money.

If Apple loses it will be liable for the business lost by Samsung in the meantime.

“Apple has a strategy of filing patents, getting some protection and trying to prevent other people from entering the market in the short-term,” said Nathan Mattock, an intellectual property lawyer at Marque Lawyers in Sydney. “If Apple’s wrong it will have to pay Samsung a considerable amount of damages, so it’s potentially quite risky.”

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