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Apple vs. Samsung: LTE & the Damage Done

5:10 PM -- The latest developments in the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) vs. Samsung Corp. patent row could potentially turn out to be really bad news for carriers looking to get new and existing users on their freshly deployed 4G networks.

According to domestic reports, Samsung could sue Apple over 4G wireless patents when it actually releases a Long Term Evolution (LTE) iPhone. Apple, meanwhile, bought up the rights to a parcel of Nortel Networks Ltd. 4G patents back in March, although Samsung still beats it on the sheer size of its wireless-related portfolio.

It seems unlikely that Samsung could move too quickly to block the iPhone 5, which is expected to arrive this month, in the U.S. but it might have more success in South Korea. Meanwhile, Apple wants to add the Samsung Galaxy SIII and Note to its U.S. injunction.

Think about what that means for carriers. Three of the top-selling wireless broadband devices in the world could be unavailable to carriers launching 4G in various parts of the globe.

Devices like the S III and the expected LTE iPhone are helping to sell 4G LTE networks to users, who don't give a damn about wireless terminology but do like having the latest and fastest gadget from Apple or Samsung. In the long run, it would be a bad move on either Apple or Samsung's part to sour its sales relationship with the carriers via protracted litigation. (See What We Mean When We Say '4G'.)

There's another aspect to these latest developments too. Both Apple and Samsung are buying in patents that they didn't create in the first place to protect against anticipated intellectual property disputes. At what point do they start to resemble patent trolls rather than vibrant technology companies?

And, will the whiff of easy money wake up their many troll friends asleep under the bridge, dreaming of the day they could use their fat wireless patent portfolios to get a bigger slice of the 4G pie?

Because, well, no one -- carrier, user or vendor -- would really want that, would they?

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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