Samsung Electronics has hit Apple with four patent cases in district court in The Hague, demanding a sales ban and a retail recall of all Apple products that use 3G technology.
The first hearing in the case is scheduled for today. Samsung in The Netherlands is demanding a preliminary injunction against all mobile products of Apple "specifically iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 1, and iPad 2."
All these devices infringe four of Samsung's essential 3G patents, the Korea-based tech giant claims in the complaints, which Webwereld, a Dutch IDG publication, has viewed .
Samsung is seeking a ban in The Netherlands on importing, trading and sales by Apple and five Apple subsidiaries. Additionally, Samsung wants Apple to recall all infringing devices in stock from its "professional customers," including electronics stores like Media Markt, where Apple has set up a shop-in-a-shop business.
Samsung has filed separate cases for each of the four patents it is invoking against Apple in The Hague. The patents are related to methods of managing the data connection and speed between a mobile station, such as a smartphone or tablet, and a network base station.
Legal battle spreads to UK
Samsung is also invoking similar patents in other cases against Apple in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea.
The patents in question are so called standards-essential, which means they are incorporated in internationally accepted technology standards - in this case, 3G and UMTS standards as ratified by organisations such as ETSI.
For Samsung this actually can turn out to be a liability, because however solid or crucial these patents might be, Samsung cannot deny Apple a licence. This is because holders of standards-essential patents come have an obligation to provide all third parties with a licence under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms, the so-called RAND or FRAND terms.
Apple's lawyers have requested an additional hearing to address these FRAND licensing issues before considering any other legal or technical issues. The district court judge has granted this request, meaning the hearing will only focus on these FRAND issues, a clerk of the court confirmed to Webwereld.
Patent consultant and activist Florian Mueller applauded this decision.
"I think the court in The Hague does the right thing by evaluating those FRAND issues first," Mueller said. "This can simplify the whole case because it may reduce it to the question of whether Apple owes Samsung any money, and if so, how much, without any need to talk about an injunction."
Mueller is critical of Apple's worldwide patent offensive, but he is even more critical of Samsung's reply, which according to him amounts to "scattershot litigation around the globe with light and questionable artillery," hoping to create a degree of legal uncertainty that might force Apple into a settlement favourable to Samsung.
"Should it turn out that Apple entered the market without taking licences to essential patents, then that's indefensible and Apple should pay," Mueller said. "However, it doesn't justify an abuse of standards-essential patents. Asking for an injunction is an abuse unless the request for the injunction is limited to the scenario in which the defendant doesn't accept to pay FRAND royalties."
Apple and Samsung and their respective counsels declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.