Apple’s iPhone 4S does not violate Samsung’s patents due to Samsung’s persistent refusal to licence them to Apple under Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms, according to a ruling by a court in The Hague, Netherlands today.
Samsung had accused Apple of infringing on a collection of patents related to 3G technology. The court ruled that there was no infringement because Samsung was obligated under EU rules to license the patents under FRAND terms. Because Apple was willing to negotiate such terms, Samsung does not have grounds to argue infringement. The court also ruled that Apple was protected from infringement on certain patents because the chips in the iPhone 4S that Samsung accused of infringing its patents were purchased from Qualcomm, which does have licensing agreements with Samsung.
Samsung and Apple have been engaged in a lengthy battle over patent infringement. The battle began in April of last year when Apple sued Samsung in U.S. courts on the grounds that several of its Galaxy phones and Galaxy Tab 10.1 were too similar to Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Apple argued that the devices were sufficiently similar to constituted infringement of design patents. Samsung countersued both in the U.S. and in several other countries.
Though Samsung has had some rulings go in its favor, things have generally gone in Apple’s favor. Apple nearly managed to block the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia completely, and similar injunctions have been issued in Germany. Today’s ruling represents a significant victory for Apple, as it effectively signals the end of Samsung’s suit against Apple over those patents. Moreover, as Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents points out, the ruling constitutes a significant reinforcement of the EU’s rules regarding FRAND licensing.