Hi there. It's been a while since I last wrote about the smartphone patent wars. I consider that a really, really good thing. I really don't like the patent wars. They're little more than a proxy conflict led by Apple and Microsoft to slow down the emergence of competing OEMs in what has obviously become the next big computing market. It is, however, a proxy war they are undeniably winning. Microsoft has inked royalty deals with nearly every Android OEM of note except the Google-owned Motorola (big surprise there), Apple has a nice little licensing arrangement with HTC, and a $600 million verdict against Samsung with another trial considered to be in Apple's favor to come.

So today the Android world got a bit of what some people are calling "good news" - the ITC (International Trade Commission, a US quasi-judiciary body) has decided that one of Samsung's standards-essential 3G patents was violated by a bunch o' Apple products. Of course, all but one of the accused products have since been relegated to the iGraveyard (the discontinued products are: iPhone 3G / 3GS, iPad 3G, iPad 2 3G). The one still on-sale product found to infringe is the iPhone 4 - but only AT&T's version. The result of the decision is the standard ITC banhammer - in 60 days, the AT&T iPhone 4 will go from "pretty outdated smartphone" to "slightly more outdated contraband."

60 court-days from now, by the way, is August 5th (the ITC doesn't work weekends, of course). Let's think about that date for a moment, shall we? In 60 days, Apple will likely have begun winding down - or have halted - additional iPhone 4 shipments to AT&T, as is standard fare for the most-outdated iPhone every summer / early fall. Why? Because the next iPhone announcement will almost definitely happen some time between August and October. The AT&T iPhone 4 is basically so close to its end of life that a ban won't affect Apple's bottom line in any appreciable way, if it affects it at all. I'm sure Apple will appeal this decision, because it is a slap in the face, but I doubt they'll pursue it with much vigor. (Apple itself has commented now, saying it will appeal, and that the ban will have no impact on the availability of Apple products in the US.)

And so, what was solved here today? Absolutely nothing. The only winners are the lawyers, who get a few hundred more billable hours of time as this case about products that don't matter and a patent that isn't infringed by newer versions of those products drags on another 6 months. Great. That's progress, or something.


David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Bet Apple wasn't expecting this day when they stirred the shit pot though, eh?

    • ProductFRED
    • S. Ali

      It started when Samsung and Nokia started stealing Apple designs.Just remember 80% of Samsung Manufacturing revenues come from Apple, and they are ending those contracts. Another 15% revenue of every device they sell goes to Microsoft. Sammy is on the losing end of this by removing a device they make parts for that is still sold in developing markets. Not surprising considering HTC recently complained Sammy was unfairly leveraging the supply-line.

      Corrupt as hell company, monopolies don't benefit anyone.

      • Samsung Fanboy

        shut the hell up and go back to cult of mac

      • Jin Woo Shin

        I am sure you confused with Foxconn and Samsung. Samsung only sells memory and AP to apple. Their(Samsung) major manufacture products are all for their Galaxy line. Where did you get that numbers?

        • Michael Pahl

          Sammy makes the Apple A6 chip in the iPhone 5

          • Jin Woo Shin

            yes. Sammy makes A6 Apple but it is only one of their product. Their major manufacture lines run for their own Exynos and Snapdragon chips. Do you really think that selling A6 and memory to Apple makes 80% of the revenue?

          • Michael Pahl

            No, no not at all...UNLESS the A6 is significantly more profitable than the two other chips..maybe Sammy bones Apple in this way?

          • ProductFRED

            They manufacture it, but they don't design it.

      • Michael Pahl

        "It started when Samsung and Nokia started stealing Apple designs"....

      • Cornstarch

        Did I mention that Apple sued HTC for similar claims as this case. This amount to trolling and extorting money from other companies. Now people woke up to the real facts and took charge

    • ElvisMarmaduke

      Oh how funny the patent wars are. You finally "win" a "battle" and because the products advance so fast it doesn't matter the slightest bit lol... Way to waste billions and slow progress "innovation leaders"

  • Ishnu

    Does this mean AT&T has a stock of iPhones that can't be sold? Would that make them the loser in this situation?

    • Michael Pahl

      I think most retail stores can return unsold merchandise to the manufacturer in circumstances like this.

      • ElvisMarmaduke

        So that means att is the real only winner here haha

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      No, the phones can't be imported. They can be sold as far as I'm aware.

  • BigMixxx

    Just enough to pull an R Kelly on Apple ...I'm gone pee on you -- drip, drip, drip

  • Edward Smith

    GOOD! Patent laws are garbage, but I hate seeing Apple winning everything which is garbage

  • rhymiZ

    Well... congrats Samsung... now the real trolling will start.

    • anywherehome

      its already started by Apple+Microsoft = pure Evil

  • Michael Harrison

    This is like Samsung getting to take the ugliest girl in the school to Prom, but at least they got a date!

    • Samsung Fanboy

      its not the date that would matter but what they get afterwards. :-)

      • Michael Harrison

        About all they got was a touch of 3rd base, lol.

        • Guest

          which going by how you look is more you got lol

          • Michael Harrison

            I'm crushed, really. AFK, jumping off high rise from that potent attack.

        • George Millhouse

          more than you got im sure

  • Tyler James Edward Hills

    Speaking of patent wars, just read an article that Apple was awarded a patent for transferring data between two devices using NFC. Seriously? It's just getting ridiculous. Scratch that. It's been ridiculous and now it's progressing to something even worse.


    • flosserelli

      Next up...Apple patents numbers & the alphabet.

    • Alec Smith

      Apple applied for the patent before other companies were using it. Its not their fault it takes forever to review patent applications.

      • George Millhouse

        total bull Alec , total bull

        • Alec Smith

          What a convincing argument, you should apply to be on Samsung's legal team.

          • fonix232

            Alec, the problem is not with Apple applying for a patent, but that other companies took the actual time and money to research the technology, make it usable, make it profitable. While all Apple did so far was to push out another patent from their a**, that should be already invalid (if I recall right, in the EU if you filed a patent for an idea, and did not make it happen, or did not make steps towards making it, the patent is invalidated in 2 to 5 years after its filing happened).

            This means that Apple was sitting back on implementing NFC for five years, while other manufacturers were using their own solutions, and now some a**hat on the higher levels decided that yea, Apple should have the right for that.

            What's the next, they patent the wheel? And then force every car, bike, or in generic, vehicle manufacturer to pay them because they had the idea?

          • Michael Harrison

            Sadly, that's how Patent law works. It's not about who designed it or used it best. It's all about who gets rewarded the patent. I don't blame Apple, Motorola, Samsung, etc in all of this. I blame crappy patent laws that need major fixing.

          • Tyler James Edward Hills

            I still don't like the idea of Apple blatantly abusing a broken system for their own gain. But I suppose business is about money, not doing the right thing. But from an ethical standpoint, I can definitely blame Apple

          • Michael Harrison

            It's not that simple though. By patent law, if you don't aggressively pursue against every possible violation that you had a "reasonable expectation" that you knew it was happening, you could very possibly lose your patent and it becomes available to everybody.

            I don't blame the companies, I blame the system.

    • Hal Motley

      Looks like Solid Explorer is screwed. XD

      The real joke is that most of the payment industry seemed disappointed NFC wasn't included in the iPhone 5, but instead the Passbook app to take pictures of your tickets/cards. http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/117228-iphone-5-why-no-nfc

    • Vardan Nazaretyan

      I am reading your comment and I'm like: WTF?! Jupiter, I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

  • squiddy20

    Reminds me of a year or so ago when Apple somehow managed to get a few of the Galaxy S and S2 variants banned... even though most carriers had stopped selling them...

  • MyNameIsLOS

    A win is a win. I'll take it. Though I do wish the whole thing would just go away.

  • Owen Finn

    Apple has filed to patent the QWERTY keyboard system on mobile phones and tablets, by the way.

    • Hal Motley

      Time to utilise the Dvorak layout!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ray-Sunghwa-Woo/542631978 Ray Sunghwa Woo

    Well I think that this is some kind of political warning against Apple like "if you don't fix your problem we will show you what we can do." This bans don't really hurt Apple much but wake them up a little so that Apple realize the US government or agencies won't be on their side if they don't do their end.


  • Byron A. Knowlton III

    and now the million or billion dollar question... If they actually did infringe on Samsung's patent, when does Samsung collect damages?

  • Could be Anyone

    Apple is a bully anyway and I'm sure they will twist this and make Samsung and android look like the bad guys when it's clear that Apple just wants to monopolise the market.

  • Bryan Pizzuti

    No impact because they were discontinuing it anyway.