Apple Backs Ericsson in Samsung Patent Fight

Apple sides with Ericsson in Samsung patent fight. Sort of.Apple isn't the only company fighting with Samsung over mobile device patents. Ericsson has its own legal battle against Samsung, and now Apple is joining in with a statement of public interest filed with the International Trade Commission.

In its letter, Apple urged the ITC to reject Samsung's request for an injunction blocking the sale of Ericsson devices saying, "an exclusion order based on any declared standard-essential patents (SEPs) that Samsung has committed to license on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms would contravene the public interest," according to Foss Patents.

This round of patent lawsuits started in 2012 when Ericsson filed a complaint against Samsung over infringement claims with a request for an injunction blocking the sale of the company's smartphones and tablets in the United States. Samsung fired back with a counter lawsuit along with an injunction request of its own.

Samsung chose to go after Ericsson with patents considered standards essential, which ultimately drew Apple's interest. Assuming the ITC rules to reject Samsung's injunction complaint, or at least rules against it, Apple could potentially use that in its own ongoing litigation against the company.

Apple expressed concern over the fact that Samsung is extending its complaints beyond 3G technology to include LTE, and fears the inclusion could hamper innovation and market growth. Apple's complaint stated,

Samsung's abusive conduct threatens to escalate the problem of SEP holdup and chill competition for products that comply with the new LTE standard just as such competition should be expanding and bringing vast benefits to competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and U.S. consumers.

While Apple is indirectly supporting Ericsson, it isn't addressing the fact that Ericsson is also citing standards essential patents in its complaint against Samsung. Since both sides won't likely drop their SEP arguments for fear of giving their opponent the upper hand, it'll be up to the ITC to sort out the complaints.

"The problem is that if one party to such a dispute believes its non-SEPs are weaker, it may not want to give up its best chance of reaching a state of mutually assured destruction," Florian Mueller of Foss Patents said. "That's why it's really up to the ITC itself to prevent SEP abuse."

He added that such a move, while unlikely, would send a strong signal to patent holders hoping to use SEP in litigation.

No doubt Apple will be watching the fight between Samsung and Ericsson in hopes of finding new information, and potentially rulings, it can use in its own mobile device patent infringement fights.