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New patent foes: Ericsson vs. Samsung

Posted: 29 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:patent infringement? intellectual property? FRAND terms? LTE? telecommunication standard?

Ericsson has filed a patent lawsuit against Samsung in a U.S. court over technologies that the Swedish firm claims to be vital in today's wireless and telecommunications market. The two companies have negotiated for nearly two years over Samsung's renewal of licensing agreements.

Samsung initially licensed Ericsson's patents in 2001, renewing in 2007, but its licence has now expired. Talks between the two giants have broken down despite efforts involving senior management at both companies. "We now see no choice other than legal action. This is our last resort," Kasim Alfalahi, chief intellectual property officer at Ericsson, said in an interview.

Ericsson is known to have a large number of patents covering global communications standards, including GSM, GPRS, EDGE, WCDMA, LTE and 802.11. "We invest very heavily in R&D$5 billion in 2011 alone," said Alfalahi, "which result in more than 30,000 patents we own." These patents are broadly used in a variety of connected devices, including tablets and mobile phones.

For LTE, Ericsson holds "around 25 per cent" of essential patents, claimed Alfalahi. "We bet on LTE from early on, instead of WiMax, which allowed us to make significant contributions" to the telecommunication standard.

Kasim Alfalahi

Kasim Alfalahi, Ericsson chief IP officer. Alfalahi said when dealing with a wide portfolio of key telecom technologies, the preferred option is negotiations among individual companies.

The telecommunication industry has not established an LTE patent pool that allows for a one-stop licensing shop. Alfalahi said patent pools may work for narrower technologies that apply to a niche field, but when dealing with a wide portfolio of key telecom technologies, the preferred option is negotiations among individual companies.

Texas court

As some older telecom patents specs hit their 20 year expiration deadline, companies like Ericsson don't necessarily lose patent protection. Some "solutions" related to 2G, for example, are being applied to 4G, explained Alfalahi. Ericsson has more than 100 licence agreements based on "fair, reasonable and non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

"We have tried hard to amicably come to an agreement with Samsung and to sign a licence agreement on FRAND terms. But they refused," Alfalahi said.

Alfalahi said Ericsson's technologies related to things like the "user interface, touch screens, video streaming or others" used by Samsung in consumer products aren't a part of the communications standards and won't necessarily be licensed on FRAND terms.

Ericsson filed its complaint against Samsung in a Texas court, where Ericsson's U.S. headquarters is located and where it employs several thousand employees. Ericsson chose "the United States to be the venue because it's the country where [intellectual property rights] are very important," said Alfalahi. "We have no desire to expand our lawsuit beyond the United States."

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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