Rotten luck: Apple loses latest Samsung patent row

Consumer gadgets giant Apple has lost the latest ruling in its ongoing patent dispute with rival Samsung. It may have to take some stuff off the shelves as a result...

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The patent war between Apple and Samsung has been raging for several years now, with each company claiming that the other has ripped it off in some way by emulating the other’s technology. It’s a weird one because Samsung actually makes the touch screens for Apple’s devices; so really, they need each other. Nonetheless, the latest ruling in their patent war has concluded that Apple infringed a patent, and means that some of the older models of the iPad and iPhone will have to be taken off shelves in the US.

What exactly is the patent for then? It’s to do with the 3G wireless internet technology, and the functionality to transmit and receive data between several different types of wireless connection (including wifi) at the same time. Apple says it will appeal the ruling, but the International Trade Commission (ITC) is a big hitter in this field and overturning its ruling again could be tricky.

A statement from Samsung said: ‘We believe the ITC’s final determination has confirmed Apple’s history of free-riding on Samsung’s technological innovations.’ Very feisty from Samsung, but it is worth noting that in his latter days, former CEO Steve Jobs claimed pretty much the opposite, pledging to spent ‘every last dollar of Apple’s 80 billion dollars’ on ‘righting this wrong’ – i.e. he thought Samsung was the free-rider.

Apple has been in a spot of bother recently over its tax affairs, too. A Senate committee claimed last month that Apple uses ‘a complex web of offshore entities’ to avoid paying many billion of dollars in taxes. While the practice is not illegal, it doesn’t sit well given the international outcry over tax dodging by global companies. ‘Apple wasn't satisfied with shifting its profits to a low-tax offshore tax haven,’ said committee chairman Carl Levin. ‘Apple sought the Holy Grail of tax avoidance. It has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars, while claiming to be tax resident nowhere.’

Whether or not Apple will actually have to cease selling some of its older models will probably not be known for many months – such is the sloth-like nature of court systems. But in the mean time, the ITC has ordered an import and sales ban on just about every iPhone and iPad except iPhone 5, sold by US phone network AT&T. Import bans have to be reviewed by the president, but he is unlikely to overturn it. 

Apple's share price is down 0.31% to below $449.31, having tumbled from a $700 peak last summer - but a spokesperson says the news has had ' no impact on the availability of Apple products in the United States.’ Hmm. We’ll have to wait and see how long that claim stands…

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