From the category archives:

Intellectual Property

Samsung and the EU

by Charlie Rothbart on 2 February 2012

In my last post I discussed the ongoing litigations between Apple and Samsung, specifically in relation to  standards-essential patents.

It has now been announced that the EU Commission has launched a formal investigation into the 3G licensing practices of Samsung and the alleged contravention of the “irrevocable commitment it made to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).”

The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) requires signatory states to ensure that their national patent legislation obliges patent rights holders to license, on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND) their standard-essential patents.

Yet Samsung has asserted a standard-essential 3G patent against Apple, and as a result the Commission is investigating to ascertain whether this is an anti-competitive practice in contravention of Article 102 EU, which prevents the distortion of the common market by an abuse of an entity in a dominant position.

A notable feature of this investigation is that it was not (apparently, or at least publicly) requested by Apple, which is the usual sequence of events in circumstances such as these: the Commission is acting entirely on its own initiative.

The instigation of this investigation demonstrates to the commercial world that the mechanisms in place to protect the consumer and to further the aims of the EU Treaties in maintaining the single Community market really do have teeth. Whether Samsung will be bitten remains to be seen, although it is hard to see how it can be avoided.

As yet, Samsung has not commented on the news, and it remains to be seen if the parties even attempted to negotiate a licence in line with the FRAND obligations.

For the telecommunication industry, lawyers, patent attorneys and policy makers alike, this will be an interesting process to watch, and one which could have significant implications for FRAND, competition law and the plethora of patent litigation that is currently battering the telecommunications market.



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2012: Our Predictions for the Year Ahead

by Charlie Rothbart on 4 January 2012

Now that the holiday season is well and truly behind us and we are all making (and often, breaking) our usual resolutions to eat less, drink less, exercise more, and generally be better human beings, we are presented with an opportunity to glance ahead into the coming year and think about what we expect to see in 2012 (if, like me, you do not believe the Apocalypse rumours).

2011 will be the year that remembers patent wars in the telecommunications industry as being rife, with patents viewed globally as an increasingly large and unnecessary barrier to innovation and commercial competition. But we expect that this pattern will continue throughout 2012, especially with the commercialisation of new technologies, such as the rolling out of 4G, which is likely to bring a whole new wave of litigation with a new cast of actors (and probably some of the old cast too).

New Technologies

Apart from the implementation of 4G, what else can we expect to see in 2012?

IBM recently predicted that by 2017, passwords as a primary means of access will be rendered obsolete:

“Devices to authenticate your identity by biometric means will become commonplace in the next five years and passwords will become a thing of the past.”

IBM also predicts that the use of mind control (to operate machinery, as opposed to main-streaming Jedi Mind Tricks) will also begin to soar over the next 5 years. If this is the case, one can expect players in these technological fields to be producing and possibly enforcing vast amounts of mind-control-related IP during 2012.

Of course, no Predictions-About-the-Coming-Year post would be complete without a mention of the Olympics, which is coming to London this summer. Not surprisingly, innovation and IP even got a mention from BBC’s Phil Fearnley, general manager at BBC Future Media. In The Guardian, Phil has promised that

“Viewers will see innovations in the way IP and broadcast streams and the way data and video will interact.”

and that

“The Olympic Games in London in 2012 will be remembered as the first truly digital Olympics.”

We will also see the rise (or demise) of the ultrabook this year, with Intel pushing hard to revolutionise the laptop and PC market in the age of the tablet. We expect some interesting, game-changing technologies to be revealed along the way.


Having seen patent ‘reform’ in the US in the shape of the America Invents Act, and the Hargreaves Review in the UK (a process mainly focusing on copyright which is still on-going), one can expect that the piles and piles of patent litigation suits between the likes of Google, Oracle, Samsung, HTC and Apple, to name but a few, will only increase the pressure on policy makers to step-up the pace of review of patent laws, on both sides of the Atlantic.

On this side of the Atlantic, much closer to home – at least it is if you don’t listen to President Sarkozy – is the potentially imminent birth of the EU patent. The Legal Affairs Committee in December gave its approval for the “EU Patent Package”, which includes a unitary patent, a new language regime and a unified patent court. Despite the teething problems which often follow any newly created judicial process, this activity is likely to keep IP firmly in the main stream press during 2012.


Litigation and the Focus on IP

Of course, the Samsung and Apple litigation is set to continue well into 2012, as will the Android-related litigation between HTC, Samsung et al., which is likely to keep the attention of the mainstream press fixed firmly on patents for some time.

For me, one of the most interesting cases to watch in 2012, which has spilled over from 2011, is  Oracle v Google. The outcome of this litigation could see Google’s Android partners having to pay significant licensing fees to Oracle, or Google may be forced to re-write the Android platform to avoid Java patents. Either outcome would cause a significant stir for Google and manufacturers of Android phones and tablets, not to mention the world of IP. This is of course assuming that Oracle is victorious, which may well not be the case.


2012’s Winners and Losers

2011 was a tough year for some of the biggest names. We expect the likes of Apple and Google to continue on their trajectory for world domination without too many snags along the way, but Nokia and RIM are examples of companies to keep a concerned eye on this year.

  • Can Nokia’s Symbian continue to contribute to the balance sheet?
  • Will 2012 see RIM finally RIP?
  • And how will Microsoft prevail in the mobile market with Windows 8 when it is up against the ever-growing Android and the so-far-unstoppable iOS?

It is true to say that the most reliable prediction for 2012 is that it is going to be a very interesting year for us here at Tangible IP…

As IP professionals, we are ever hopeful that the commercial world will start to notice on a much broader scale the value and importance of IP to business. During 2012, we will keep on promoting the value of IP strategies and helping our clients realise the maximum value possible from their IP and other intangible assets, whilst patiently waiting for the proverbial light to come on above the opportunities most are missing out on by over-looking their IP.

We hope that the continuing and increasing attention of the main stream press on patents and infringement litigation in the telecommunications industry will eventually serve as a catalyst for IP and turn the attention it receives at board level from being not just a cause for concern, but a valuable commercial asset.

But for now, we wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year. Let the journey begin.





The Apple v Samsung Patent War

November 23, 2011

Introduction Apple and Samsung are now 7 months in to their own chapter in what was coined by The Economist in October 2010 as the Great Patent Battle. The market heavyweights are now embroiled in litigation over their smartphones and tablets in 9 countries worldwide: US (District of California), Netherlands, Japan, Germany, South Korea, UK, […]

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Oracle v SAP

September 5, 2011

Back in November 2010, Oracle succeeded in its copyright infringement lawsuit against SAP in Oakland, CA. The decision was not exactly significant, as SAP admitted liability for infringing Oracle’s copyrighted software with its TomorrowNow initiative, which had been shut down in 2008 as a result of the lawsuit. SAP’s TomorrowNow had a program which allowed […]

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Behind the Scenes at the Nortel Auction

July 6, 2011

For anyone who may have been away from an internet connection for the past couple of weeks, the auction was held last week in New York to sell off the now bankrupt Nortel’s 6000 strong patent portfolio. The patents covered LTE, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, social media, semiconductor, and a number of other communications and Internet-related technologies. […]

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Rockstar Bidco reigns supreme at the Nortel Patent Auction

July 1, 2011

We now know that the auction which has grabbed the attention of not only the IP world but the technological, legal and mainstream press for some time now, took a total of four days to reach its conclusion, and realised a whopping USD 4.5billion for Nortel’s creditors. The size and monetary value of this auction, […]

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And the Winner Is….

July 1, 2011

After days of patiently waiting for updates from the Nortel Auction, news has just come in that Nortel has sold its 6000 strong patent portfolio for $4.5 billion. The portfolio has been sold to six of the bidders: Apple, Microsoft, RIM, EMC, Ericsson and Sony, according to another source, but details of the terms of […]

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Rockstar Bidco: The Speculation Continues

June 28, 2011

In our previous post, we speculated that the hidden force behind this unknown entity is likely to be an IV-type company, or another troll. Having pondered this some more, we wonder whether Rockstar Bidco is in fact a shell set up to bid at the auction on behalf of a well known company with a […]

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Rockstar Bidco

June 27, 2011

It was revealed just before the weekend that two more companies have gained approval from US antitrust regulators to bid for the Nortel patent portfolio: Intel Corp. and Rockstar Bidco LP. Since the news broke we have been trying to find out as much as we can about Rockstar Bidco LP, but have unfortunately managed […]

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The Nortel Auction House Rules

June 23, 2011

The auction of Nortel’s patent portfolio was due to be held last Monday but was postponed for one week due to the huge amount of interest from potential bidders (according to Nortel). Coincidentally, there have been a number of objections made to the court in Delaware regarding the procedural rules of the auction and the […]

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