Ericsson Sues Samsung for Patent Violation

Mobile equipment maker Ericsson filed patent infringement suits Friday against Samsung, saying its rival was using a variety of its technologies without authorization.

Sweden-based Ericsson filed suit against Samsung in the U.S., UK, Germany and The Netherlands. The actions came after talks aimed at hammering out an agreement on royalty payments or licensing fees failed, Ericsson said in a statement.

“We have negotiated but have not been able to reach a new agreement,” Ericsson spokesperson Aase Lindskog said in the statement. She added that earlier royalty agreements expired in December of 2005. “We regret we have had to take this step.”

The disputed patents involve a variety of critical technology powering mobile communications, including Global System for Mobile communications, or GSM, General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), and the high-speed Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution, or EDGE.

Samsung did not immediately respond to the action and a call made to its U.S. operations seeking comment was not immediately answered.

The new patent dispute comes as another closely watched dispute over mobile technology, the epic NTP-Research In Motion legal entanglement, headed to court Friday for what could be a critical turning point in that case.

Long Road Ahead

Legal experts said the multiple jurisdictions involved, the fact that the patent disputes involve widely used technology and the high stakes will likely mean the case could take years to play itself out. A settlement may be the most likely option, but both companies may choose to conduct business as usual for the foreseeable future.

Ericsson said it was defending its intellectual property on behalf of its shareholders and in recognition of the years and millions of dollars spent developing it.

Alternatives to a lengthy courtroom battle may include taking the dispute to the World Intellectual Property Organization, especially since the actions cover more than one jurisdiction. The two sides could also agree to submit to mediation, with a qualified third party allowed to resolve the dispute.

Unfriendly Nudge?

Though details of the suit are not yet known, analysts say end-users should not expect to see any dramatic changes in the way either company does business for the time being.

“A lot of times, actions are used to spur along a stalled discussion,” patent attorney Steven Frank of national firm Goodwin Procter told the E-Commerce Times. “Firms that prosecute their patents need to be consistent about it and they sometimes have to take action to do that.”

The vast majority of disputes are settled before a court ruling ever comes, a reflection of the risk involved for both sides in a patent disagreement, he added.

The dispute comes as both Samsung and Ericsson are enjoying a lengthy run of strong sales growth, fueled by the arrival of next-generation high-speed networks that let mobile carriers deliver more services to customers and drive the adoption of more higher-end handsets that can receive audio and video downloads and handle interactive gaming.

Samsung held about 13 percent market share in mid-2005, according to Gartner, compared to about 6 percent for the Sony Ericsson partnership, which rolled out multiple new products in 2005, including a Walkman-branded MP3-player and phone combination.

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