A Samsung executive laid it out: Without the Korean company's patents there can be no iPhone, at least not one that works. Shin Jong-Kyun, President of Telecoms and IT at Samsung, told reporters in Seoul that the truth will out, and that Apple couldn't make the iPhone without using Samsung's patents.
The comments come in the wake of a decision on Tuesday by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to review a preliminary decision in September that found Apple did not violate four Samsung patents, two of which are standards-essential patents used in 3G wireless networks.
"The truth never lies," Mr. Shin told reporters, according to The Korea Times. "Without Samsung-owned wireless patents, it’s impossible for the Cupertino-based Apple to produce its handsets. As you know, Samsung is very strong in terms of portfolios of wireless patents."
Mr. Shin has the right of it, too. Apple can't make a cellphone or smartphone that works on most of the world's wireless networks without using technology governed by patents owned by Samsung. That is the very nature of building standards around patents submitted by companies like Samsung that, when accepted, become "standards essential patents" or SEPs.
Companies submit their patents to standards bodies so that they can then earn guaranteed royalties. In return, they promise to license those patents under so-called fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) rates.
Accordingly, if Apple's iPhone works on, say, a 3G network, it does so using technology covered by a host of SEPs owned by companies like Samsung, Nokia, Motorola Mobility (Google), and many other companies.
Then again, Apple has never denied this, meaning that Mr. Shin was making an argument that no one on the planet disputes. What Apple has done is argued that Samsung has failed to honor its FRAND commitments, and that in some cases, it is covered by licenses already paid by companies like Qualcomm who make the chips that use those technologies.
According to Apple, Samsung has asked for many times more in licensing fees than it charges competitors, and that it did so in order to force Apple to license its own utility and design patents it feels Samsung is violating. Samsung has, of course, argued that its requested rates are appropriate.
In August, a U.S. jury found that patent exhaustion protected Apple from infringement claims on some patents. That case is being appealed.
In September, an administrative law judge for the ITC ruled that Apple didn't violate four other patents, including two SEPs. That's the case that will now be reviewed by a full panel of judges, the case that sparked Shin Jong-Kyun's comment.
"The re-evaluation decision by the USITC doesn’t necessarily mean Samsung is better-positioned for the fight with Apple," Mr. Shin said. "But Samsung will do its best. Samsung’s legal team is effectively responding to this fight. Yes, a new trial for the case is a possibility."
We should note that The Korea Times article misidentifies Mr. Shin as CEO of Samsung and also Samsung's mobile "chief." His proper title is President of Telecoms and IT, as stated above.