Well, this is certainly an interesting turn of events. In Samsung and Apple's ongoing attempts to sue the pants off one another in every court conceivable, an unlikely player has stepped into the arena as a voice of reason (sort of).

Verizon Wireless, the US's largest wireless carrier, has requested permission to file a brief in the Federal Court for the Northern District of California on the part of Samsung in one of the many lawsuits it is involved in with Apple. Apple filed a motion previously for a preliminary injunction, asking the court, in light of Samsung's alleged patent infringement, to ban the import of four Samsung Android devices (the Infuse 4G, the DROID Charge, the Galaxy S 4G, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1). The court has yet to rule on the motion, and Verizon has jumped into the fray to fight for Samsung.

The efficacy of an amicus curiae brief (which is by definition filed by a third party) depends largely on the discretion of the court, because it is unlikely Apple will consent to Verizon's filing. The court will decide whether or not to consider the brief based upon its helpfulness, who paid for it to be written, and whether the information in the brief provides the court insight not previously offered by either of the parties in suit.

Verizon's argument is essentially this: regardless of whether Apple's patent and trademark infringement are likely to succeed, there is potential for grave harm to the public interest if the court grants an injunction against Samsung's products. The harm being that Verizon (and other carriers) will lose access to (some) Samsung products, hurting consumer's choices and reducing the availability of high-speed wireless broadband to Americans (because there would be fewer 4G phones). This argument is probably bordering on hyperbole, but it's not without merit, and Verizon is certainly very interested in the outcome of this case.

Big Red is in a precarious situation here. On the one hand, Verizon remains the largest seller of Android handsets in the US. On the other, their growing relationship with Apple and the Verizon iPhone means they've got a tight rope to walk - and Verizon clearly wants this dispute resolved without any mal-effects on their business. Verizon knows that if Samsung is slapped with an injunction, they'll redouble their efforts to ensure the same thing happens to Apple on Samsung's patent counterclaims, or take their case to the ITC, which could fast track Samsung's claims against Apple.

Verizon's saying that with injunctions, regardless of who wins, the public's going to be the one to lose the most. Public interest is one of the factors in determining the appropriate remedy for patent or trademark infringement, and so Verizon's brief isn't without merit - even if their argument does seem to make the situation a little more dramatic than it actually is.

The brief relates only to one patent Apple is currently suing on (a scrolling method for browsers, apps, menus, etc.), an infringement that Samsung could easily remedy on future handsets - if an injunction were to be handed down. However, the court is free to use Verizon's reasoning to help decide any of the claims in the lawsuit, so the particular patent Verizon claims to be briefing the court on, in this instance, isn't all that relevant.

It does seem odd to have Verizon coming up to bat for Samsung, but with a potentially Verizon-bound Nexus handset on the way this winter along with a version of the Galaxy Tab 7, they certainly have a big financial interest in the continued IP viability of Samsung's products. The court will decide whether or not to "grant leave" (consider) the brief in the coming weeks.