So, it's time for another one of those Patent Litigation posts, the kind that are going to be inevitable before something happens concerning the state of patents. Thankfully though, this time around it's got nothing to with Apple! How good is that? Yeah, it doesn't make it much better really but, this is an interesting case as it shines light on how successful you can be with the right amount of patents under your belt. Ericsson are a company that I'm sure not a lot of you have heard of but you might remember the join venture between them and Sony, that brought us all of those Walkman Phones, under the banner of "Sony Ericsson". For a long time – before smartphones really took off – they were the best dumbphones that money could buy and were, at one point, a real style symbol.
Before this though, Ericsson had their own handset business and are responsible for a lot of the network technologies that we come to rely on everyday. The Swedish company has over 30,000 patents under its belt and has signed deals to license patents to over 100 licensees over the years. So, while they might not be in the public eye, they're very much a large part of the industry.
Samsung are just one of Ericsson's licensees and have been since 2001, they renewed the license in 2007 but both deals have now ran their course and have expired. This leaves Samsung without a valid license for whatever patents they're using that belong to Ericsson. Samsung have refused to license them under FRAND conditions – fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms – putting Ericsson in a tough spot. They've been left with no choice but to file suit against the Korean firm, and have done so in the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The dispute between the two companies surrounds patents that Ericsson own the rights to that are essential for communication that Samsung are refusing to license, thus making the use of such patents by Samsung unauthorized.
When asked for a statement, Chief Intellectual Property Officer at Ericsson has this to say:
"By the end of 2012 there will be approximately 6.6 billion mobile subscriptions in the world. The sharing of technology in the telecom industry is one of the main drivers behind this development. The telecom ecosystem builds on fair and reasonable terms that have created an attractive global mass market for mobility and broadband with Ericsson as a main contributor,"
I'm more than inclined to side with Ericsson here, sharing of technology is essential, and no more so than in 2012. The Swedish firm is being far from unreasonable and are simply asking for what they're rightfully owed. If anything, Ericsson are acting better than any other company in the public eye that have been involved in patent litigation cases recently. This is the right attitude that should be taken when it comes to patents and I'm a little surprised that Samsung have decided to no longer license the patents – did they think they were going to get away with it?