France's Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris on Thursday ruled against Samsung's request for a preliminary injunction against the iPhone 4S, striking a heavy blow to the South Korean company's worldwide patent arguments, reports Florian Mueller of FOSS patents.
"The court furthermore held that Samsung's request for an injunction was "disproportionate" and stated that this fact was apparent, without citing particular reasons for this finding," Mueller says. "Some of what the French ruling says indicates that Samsung's use of 3G-essential patents is going to fail everywhere at least as far as the iPhone 4S is concerned."
The court ruling implies that the basis for Samsung's arguments against the iPhone 4S, so-called FRAND patents, have been exhausted.
Fair, reasonable and and non-discriminatory (FRAND) patents have been at the heart of the Galaxy smartphone maker's worldwide case, with certain 3G-essential patents owned by Samsung being used as leverage against iPhone 4S sales.
The French judge who handed down the decision made clear that Samsung was mishandling its FRAND obligations, noting that a holder of standards-essential patents is not allowed to capitalize on its "necessarily dominant position."
Originally, Samsung licensed the industry-essential patents to Qualcomm, which supplies the baseband chip in the iPhone 4S, but claims it terminated the agreement in regards to Apple's use of the intellectual property.
"The French ruling makes it clear that there's every indication that Samsung's patent rights are exhausted and Apple is, therefore, effectively licensed," Mueller writes.
Mueller explains the court saw Samsung's essential patents as subject to the rules of standard-setting organization ETSI, and therefore the license it extended to Qualcomm was irrevocable. Because ETSI's regulations are subject to French law, the decision is particularly significant and could carry dire implications to Samsung's worldwide attempts in banning the iPhone 4S.
Apple and Samsung's global disputes have seen more than 30 filings in at least 12 courts in 9 countries that span over 4 continents. Mueller says that expediency is key when it comes to this type of major dispute, however these cases usually take time and quick rulings are hard to come by.
"Patent cases are complex and don't lend themselves to requests for preliminary injunctions, and if FRAND issues and the concept of patent exhaustion (meaning that an alleged infringer has a license by virtue of buying a component from a licensed vendor) come into play, those cases become even more complex and, as a result, courts are even less comfortable to take decisions on the fast track," Mueller writes.
He goes on to say that more efficient than seeking fast preliminary injunctions would be to file suits in courts that have a track record of being quick in deciding regular-length cases. Examples are the ITC in the U.S. and the Mannheim Regional Court in Europe.
The next hearing in the ongoing legal battle is set for Dec. 16, when an Italian court in Milan may hand down a decision to ban sales of Apple's newest handset in the country.
"If the Italian bid also fails, the time may come for both Apple and Samsung to realize that you can't win a marathon with a sprint," Mueller says.