Yet another salvo in the patent wars is being fired. This time it is Samsung that is pulling the trigger. It appears that the International Trade Commission (ITC) will rule on May 31st that Apple did indeed infringe on UMTS-essential patent related to the 3G technology built into the earliest versions of the iPhone and iPad that were/are used on AT&T. For those of you not familiar, a UMTS-essential patent is a patent that is considered to be essential for a standard to exist. In this case it applies to a specific type of radio chip that was used in certain versions of the iPad and iPhone. The company that holds a UMTS-essential patent (Samsung, in this case) is required to licence the technology out to other manufacturers for a reasonable price. But back when Apple was designing these devices, they didn’t feel that Samsung’s rate was reasonable, so they just didn’t licence the technology at all. The irony is that Apple probably would have gotten away with it, except that Steve Jobs demanded that Apple crush Android by any means necessary. Shortly before Steve Job’s death he launched what are now know as the “patent wars”; essentially a plethora of law suits against almost every OEM that uses Android as it’s primary operating system.
Back to the matter at hand: Samsung is asking the ITC to ban imports of the devices that violate the patent in question. Experts agree that it is unlikely that the ITC will ban the import of any Apple products, and even if they do it would really only apply to a few older models that are being sent to/from customers for repairs. This is one more example of how the mobile industry is moving much faster than the court system can. A few months ago Apple briefly won an injunction that banned the sale of several Samsung devices in the US. But those devices were obsolete and already hadn’t been on shelves for months.
This sad abuse of the US patent system continues to be Steve Jobs’ legacy for those of us who haven’t ever seen the need to waste money on an Apple product. Because these lawsuits have actually made devices more expensive for all of us, and have slowed down the growth of the mobile industry, and have wasted the resources of judicial systems around the world. Hopefully someday the new leadership at Apple will understand that what Steve Jobs wanted to do to the iPhone’s competitors was just plain wrong. Innovation is what tech companies should spend their money on, not litigation.