24
Sep
verizonwirelesslogo

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.

FOSSPatents

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Michael

    Wow I'm very surprised by this! Kudos to Verizon!

    • BobbyPhoenix

      Agree! I would take it a step more if I was Verizon. "Hey Apple! You ban Samsung, so in turn we can't sell them to our customers, then how about we ban the sales of all Apple products until you wise up?!" How you like them apples???? Muahhhaaahhaaa!!!!!!

  • http://www.twitter.com/Kemito_ KERMETH

    Apple is just like AT&T... I hate them both. They want to control the world regardless of its price... Go Android and Verizon!!! (I'm a BlackBerry FanBoy)

  • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com PixelSlave

    I think Verizon finally realize that Apple actually depends on them than the other way around. The thing is, Verizon helped raise Android to be a serious competitor to the iOS, and now Apple becomes the one who wants to keep up with the growth.

    Obviously, losing the biggest wireless carrier in the US will hurt Apple more. The market has shown that even without an iPhone, Verizon can keep up with its smartphone growth. Sure, it can grow even bigger with the iPhone in its selection, but not at a cost of hurting the sales of its other phones.

    The interesting thing is, Verizon does not seem to be spending much in promoting the iPhone, unlike what AT&T used to do (in fact, it seems even AT&T reduces its reliance on the iPhone in its commercials.)

  • http://www.mycellife.net Bradley

    Apple really need to behave themselves. They are being bullies the industry, its their way it the highway.

  • khsharpe

    please keep us up todate with followups - this has ramifications world wide

  • L boogie

    I've always wondered when the fight between these two would spill upon American shores and on the eve of major mobile releases for both os no less and the outcome could have untold ramifications on the whole mobile industry. Mind you, Samsung is trying to ban Apple in its native south Korea and initiating a counter strike in Australia & Europe to lift placed injunctions. This war has to end (though not anytime soon) because it's the end users that loses when the dust settles.

  • ocdtrekkie

    A lot of people don't realize how unimportant the iPhone is to Verizon. Verizon doesn't advertise 3G devices, and the iPhone, even the iPhone 5, will be effectively last generation for them.

    • Tall Tony

      "...iPhone 5, will be effectively last generation for them."

      Very good point and likely why Verizon Wireless jumped in as a third-party on the side of Samsung. Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and many others are on board with the release of 4G/LTE products NOW and Apple (sticking with 3G) is conservative to the point of creating a public perception that they are obsolete in the smart phone market!

  • Tall Tony

    First of all, nicely written article that wasn't "dumbed down!" I see too many blogs written by authors who should open a dictionary every once in a while.

    Second, setting aside that Verizon Wireless is a revenue generating organization, it is impressive to see the company taking a stance to keep the "paying field" level. The claims Apple makes under the theory of intellectual property are marginal (to me). There are only so many ways to shape a handset and its accessories. Apple should also have more faith in their products and consumers. I can't imagine anyone mistaking a Samsung Android handset for an Apple iPhone and its accessories. If people want Apple products, nothing is likely to distract them. In a Verizon retail store, I see Samsung as an Android option. I see the iPhone as the OS alternative. The thought of someone walking in to purchase an iPhone and buying a Samsung handset because of alleged similarities is laughable and insulting to consumers.

    I know Apple needs to protect its business. I'm not a patent law expert but I have a feeling that the existing laws must be revised to limit technology patents to true innovations, not functions that are relatively generic. Also, can someone tell me what the life is for a technology patent? For example, if the time limit for a smart phone tech patent were kept to 10 years (if it's not that or less already), then converted to public domain, it would encourage innovation by the original holder to allow them to either develop new tech or enhance their existing tech. Then they could hold new patents that would be more valuable over holding on to old patents then trying to sue over them to restrict fair trade.

    Please feel free to educate me on the realities in play if you have accurate information about any of what I wrote about. Thanks. -T

    • someone

      Lol we're talking about big red customers here, who willingly remain oblivious. Remember, a larger portion of these people think they currently have a 4g phone...

      I can see that these same people might think all black slab phones are the one they want :p

      • Nick Stone

        @someone:

        As a VZW customer, I find your comment insulting! EVERYONE I know in life, or online, is also with VZW, and NONE of them think they have a 4G phone when they don't. And no one in the world (except the mentally retarded) could POSSIBLY mistake the iPhone for an Android-powered device.

        So I would suggest that you stop hating on VZW and their customers, just because you have an uninformed opinion that you think everyone else shares.

        Thank You.

        -Nick

    • Christopher Bement

      I think it's insulting to 1% of the phone buying population. You have to remember the majority of people are either idiots are or don't care about the technological intricacies. This leaves a large margin of potential profit getting someone to stop humping apple and switch in-store.

  • Tall Tony

    I want to add one more item for thought...

    Can anyone find out if Google contributed any funds for Verizon's court action? If so, please share...

    • roddyrod

      Love every word! And definitely agree!

  • edd

    Go Verizon. I was in the market for a tablet and chose against an Ipad because of Apples ridiculous tactics (I'm an Android fanboy but tablet-wise neutral)

  • Elvis

    Woohoo! I knew there was good in there! lol

  • Christopher Bement

    Verizon franchisees make almost no money on iphones at all, I know a few owners that sway their customers away just because it makes em no money. The only thing it seems that Verizon gets out of it is A) the advertisement of having iphones, getting people into the stores, and B) selling subscriptions to wireless plans. The handsets are just crap thrown in extra. The only reason it's a tight rope is because smart reps will convert iphoneys to android phones and get some commission out of it.