Samsung has officially sought to end all of its claims requesting bans of Apple products in Europe, according to a company official. The decision comes on continued probing by the European Union's anti-trust body, on allegations that Samsung is abusing its standards-essential patents by seeking product bans for their infringement. Note that this does not mean Samsung has dropped its lawsuits - merely the injunction demands involved in them.
Standards-essential patents have played a pretty important role in the mobile patent wars to date, though that role has been one which is increasingly under question. SEPs are patents on technologies that are used across broad parts of an industry (such as the underpinnings of 3G connectivity, for example), and because of their value as technological standards, are required to be licensed on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis to anyone seeking such a license.
In defending against Apple's lawsuits in most every country they've occurred, Samsung has brought to bear its arsenal of SEPs. Samsung, being a company rather firmly rooted in low-level tech research as well as consumer products, has amassed quite a portfolio of such patents over the years. Samsung controls key SEPs on mobile network connectivity, screen technology, and memory.
In using these SEPs, though, Samsung has also sought to have Apple's allegedly infringing products banned by injunction. As has been noted by commentators on the issue, this really isn't what SEPs are meant for. By definition, an SEP is meant to be a defensive - rather than offensive - way of protecting intellectual property, by charging competitors for licenses. While there's nothing wrong with suing for SEP infringement, I think it's clear that banning a product for such infringement doesn't make sense. SEPs typically have very low royalty rates, and are often in use by dozens of companies at once - a single infringer cannot cause irreparable harm to a patent holder that has already clearly chosen to license out a technology on a very wide basis.
Apple continues to allege that it does not infringe any of Samsung's SEPs, and as such, has refused to negotiate a license.
Note that this SEP injunction-seeking behavior is also the same thing the FTC allegedly is on-again, off-again thinking about investigating Google's Motorola for.
We all get that the patent wars were started by Apple - you'll get no argument from me. But that doesn't make what Samsung (or even Motorola) was doing with these SEPs right. Hopefully, after yesterday's equally level-headed decisions barring a Samsung product ban in the US, both Apple and Samsung are more likely to figure this spat out with a settlement, as HTC did.