Ericsson Sues Samsung

Further roiling the legal waters surrounding mobile phone technology, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has filed a complaint in U.S. federal district court against Samsung Corp. , alleging that the Korean handset manufacturer has infringed 11 patents covering technology that includes CDMA and WCDMA.

The new filing comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed in February claiming that Samsung has failed to renew its patent license agreement with the Swedish mobile giant and no longer has the right to use technology covered by Ericsson patents covering GSM, GPRS, and EDGE technologies. The license expired on Dec. 31, 2005, and extensive negotiations have failed to produce a renewed agreement, according to Ericsson spokesman Frank Puglia.

The original deal between Ericsson and Samsung was signed in 2002.

Gary Pinkham, investor relations manager at Ericsson, told Agence France Presse that the objective of the lawsuit is not to secure damages, but to produce a court order banning Samsung from making use of proprietary, unlicensed technology in its mobile devices.

"It's more a matter to make them stop using our patents if they're not going to license them at a reasonable price," Pinkham said.

The Ericsson-Samsung dispute joins an array of legal disputes over patents for mobile technology. BlackBerry , involved in a series of lawsuits surrounding the technology behind its popular BlackBerry mobile email devices, in March reached a $612.5 million settlement with NTP to retain a patent license. (See RIM, NTP Come to Terms.)

Also in dispute is the negotiation between Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) over the license held by Nokia to Qualcomm's patented CDMA technology. Qualcomm has filed a complaint against Nokia with the U.S. International Trade Commission, while Nokia has counter-filed with the European Commission over the license, which expires early next year.

In general, mobile standards like GSM and CDMA tend to be cobbled together using technology developed by multiple companies, which leads to the need for cross-licensing agreements -- and to legal disputes when those agreements get renegotiated.

A Samsung spokesperson responded to questions on the new filing by saying, "Samsung does not comment on pending lawsuits."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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