Samsung mulls lawsuit against Apple over LTE in next iPhone, report says

One analyst says Apple would have a patent license for LTE for the iPhone 5 through chip supplier Qualcomm

Samsung is exploring a potential lawsuit against Apple over the release of the next iPhone for infringing on Samsung's LTE wireless patents, according to unnamed industry sources quoted by the The Korea Times.

Apple is widely expected to launch an iPhone 5 with faster 4G LTE wireless at an event Wednesday. In March, Apple launched the new iPad, which uses LTE wireless over networks run by Verizon Wireless and AT&T, making the LTE launch on a new iPhone likely.

Samsung officials could not be reached to comment on the report. Samsung is based in Seoul, South Korea, the same country where SK Telecom is reportedly launching the next iPhone with LTE.

Samsung also makes the Galaxy S IIIsmartphone, which runs over LTE, along with several other Android phones. Last week, Samsung issued a statement that the Galaxy S III had sold 20 million units since its debut in May, generating quicker sales than any of its Galaxy S predecessors and making it Samsung's most successful smartphone to date.

Because of competitive rivalries between Samsung and Apple, a patent lawsuit over LTE seems highly likely, analysts said. Samsung recently was ordered by a jury in U.S. District Court to pay Apple $1.05 billion for infringing Apple patents. At the same time, a court in South Korea ordered Apple to stop selling iPad and iPhones there over a patent dispute. Other smartphone patent battles between the two companies are ongoing in other countries.

One unnamed industry source in the Korea Times report said Samsung's patents governing LTE technology are "new and highly valued," implying they would take on greater merit in a patent case than an earlier disagreement with Apple over 3G wireless patents. Those 3G patents were termed "standard essential patents" governed by FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) rules agreed upon by Samsung, the source said.

One patent law expert who writes the Fosspatents blog, Florian Mueller, said that Samsung is likely to try to sue Apple in many courts on many grounds, although it had failed when it sued Apple over the 3G UMTS wireless patents. Mueller noted that Apple prevailed with 3G patents because several courts concluded Apple had a license for those patents for its iPhone 4S, as a customer of chip supplier Qualcomm.

"The iPhone 5 will also have a Qualcomm baseband chipset, which ups the ante for Samsung," Mueller said in an email Tuesday.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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