Google Lawyer Discusses Patent System

The SF Gate—the online home of the San Francisco Chronicle—interviewed Tim Porter, Google’s patent counsel, on his perspective of the current patent system. Written in Q&A style, the article tackles topics including the patent system, Android, Apple, Microsoft and whether he thinks software patents make sense.

The article really focuses on Microsoft more than any other competitor. When pressed about Microsoft’s recent tactic to pressure Android partners into signing lucrative license agreements, Tim responded:

Unfortunately, the way it works is you don’t know what patents cover until courts declare that in litigation. What that means is people have to make decisions about whether to fight or whether to reach agreements.

This is a tactic that Microsoft has used in the past, with Linux, for example. When their products stop succeeding in the marketplace, when they get marginalized, as is happening now with Android, they use the large patent portfolio they’ve built up to get revenue from the success of other companies’ products.

It’s an interesting read on what Google’s legal team is currently facing, and their perspective on today’s patent system.

EU Investigating Samsung’s Use of 3G Patents Against Apple

I have written about Samsung’s use of RAND (or FRAND) patents against Apple, describing it “like fighting a forest fire with a water pistol.” Whereas Apple is waging its legal wrath against Samsung on the basis of copying its products, Samsung volleyed with its own suit alleging Apple infringed on their 3G patents. Unfortunate for Samsung, their patents are part of the 3G standard and fall under the FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) requirement.

The European Union’s top antitrust authority has now launched their investigation into Samsung’s use of 3G patents against Apple. From Computerworld:

Samsung has sued Apple in five E.U. countries alleging infringement of its patents on 3G mobile technology. The European Commission will now consider whether the South Korean company is abusing the principle of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing in these cases.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find Apple benefiting from this investigation, and Samsung coming out with a skinned knee.

Samsung Wants to See iPhone 4S Firmware

The legal battle Down Under between Samsung and Apple continues, with Samsung now requesting access to the iPhone 4S’s firmware, as well as Apple’s agreements with Australia’s major carriers. From Smart Office:

In Federal court today Samsung counsel Cynthia Cochrane said her client would need the source code for the iPhone 4S and agreements Apple had with major carriers Vodafone, Telstra and Optus in order to make a legal case for a ban before the court.

Apple denies the infringement, claiming they have licensed the three RAND patents from Samsung through an international agreement, which Samsung claims was not extended to Australia.

Italy Denies Samsung’s Request to Ban iPhone 4S

Samsung’s request to have the iPhone 4S banned from selling in Italy has been denied. It appears their RAND patents on 3G weren’t enough for Italy to consider banning the new iPhone model. From AGI:

Milan Courts take time to review Samsung’s requests to have iPhone 4S sales stopped in Italy. In today’s first hearing on the matter, Milan judges turned down the request and agreed to both Samsung and Apple’s request to submit further evidence, which will be reviewed on December 16.

This is the latest blow against Samsung’s legal attempts to ban Apple from selling the iPhone 4S internationally. Earlier this month, the Dutch denied Samsung’s request to ban the iPhone 4S in the Netherlands, and last week a French court postponed their heaing until November 15.

Netherlands Denies Samsung’s Request to Ban Apple’s 3G Devices

Samsung lost in its attempt to ban all Apple devices that use 3G in the Netherlands. From the Reuters article:

“A win for Apple but also relief for the industry because the judge upheld widespread understanding of fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms in the use of patents,” independent intellectual property expert Florian Mueller said.

We’ve discussed Samsung’s use of RAND patents against Apple before. Now it appears that the next battles in Italy and France could also play in Apple’s favor.

“Apple will be taking French and Italian translations of the Dutch ruling with it. This makes it a long shot for Samsung that it could win an injunction in the EU based on its 3G patents,” Mueller said.

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