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With Netherlands ruling, Samsung's patent offensive against Apple hits snag

Oct. 15, 2011 - 12:18 By

SEOUL, Oct. 15 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co.'s patent offensive against its rival Apple Inc. hit a snag after a Dutch court on Friday (Korea time) rejected the Korean firm's injunction to ban sales of the U.S. company's iPhones and iPads.

The ruling by the district court in the Hague may pose problems for the world's No. 2 mobile phone maker embroiled in a worldwide legal battle with Apple over the fast-growing smartphone and tablet computer markets.

Samsung, which had been on the defensive against its rival, had hoped that it could make a comeback in the dispute by claiming Apple had violated its third-generation (3G) mobile patent.

Courts in the Netherlands, Germany and Australia have all sided with Apple and imposed temporary bans on Samsung products for infringement of user interface (UI) and design. Samsung has been moving to change its features to bypass these court rulings.

The latest ruling said that Samsung is obliged to offer its 3G Internet technology to anyone in accordance with FRAND, the principle that dictates such information be shared in a "fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory" manner, since the technology has been accepted as the industry standard. The court pointed out that Samsung had agreed in the past to offer its patents in accordance with the FRAND principle, which is a safeguard to prevent patent holders from denying market access to latecomers.

Experts here said that the Dutch ruling, if accepted by other courts, could complicate Samsung's plans to take a hardline stance against Apple.

"The nondiscriminatory clause may undermine Samsung's efforts to halt sales of the latest iPhone 4S in France and Italy," the source said.

The source, however, said that although the Dutch court rejected Samsung's infringement suit, judges also threw out Apple's argument that it did not violate patents.

The court said that if the two companies fail to come to a reasonable settlement on 3G patent rights use, Samsung has the right to take legal action again. This could permit Samsung to receive payment from Apple in the future.

The South Korean tech giant, which makes the popular Galaxy series of smartphones and tablet PCs, has already filed a legal suit to receive payment for use of its patents in the Netherlands.

If it were to win the suit, it would receive payment for all 3G products that use its patent, including those sold in the past.

Related to the latest development, a Samsung executive said that every effort will be made to win the legal fight to receive royalties.

In addition, he said that while the Dutch court upheld the FRAND principle, this may not be the case in other countries that view patent protection differently.

The company is currently engaged in around 20 lawsuits worldwide in Asia, Europe and the United States.