Chip giants hold key in Apple-Samsung patent wars

Intel and Qualcomm agree to provide source code that could help Apple in its lawsuit against Samsung.

By Trefis Apr 5, 2012 2:17PM
The patent dispute between Apple (AAPL) and Samsung has become more interesting with the entry of two semiconductor giants, Intel and Qualcomm.

Apple has announced that it has secured source code from both Intel (INTC) and Qualcomm (QCOM), who provide chips used in the iPhone and the iPad, which could prove that it has not infringed on Samsung's patents.

The court hearing, scheduled to begin July 9 and run through Oct. 12 in an Australian court, will see the two smartphone giants battle out to set a precedent for nearly 30 other infringement lawsuits filed in several countries around the world.

Apple Stock Break-Up

Apple may already be using license-protected chipsets

Apple won a court appeal last year that allowed it access to both Intel's and Qualcomm's documents, which could help it fend off Samsung's allegations of patent infringement. The source code potentially has information proving that both Qualcomm and Intel are licensed to Samsung's patents. In such a case, even if Samsung is able to prove that Apple infringes on Samsung's patents, Apple will not be held liable for any further payment because Samsung already receives payment from Qualcomm and Intel for the patents.

Moreover, if the court considers the above evidence as conclusive enough to rule in Apple's favor, Apple could use this ruling as a precedent to seek injunctive relief from Samsung in similar cases filed in other countries.

Qualcomm's baseband chipsets have been featured in Apple's iDevices ever since Verizon decided to launch the CDMA iPhone 4. All of Apple's devices released prior to Verizon's offering used chipsets made by Infineon, which was later acquired by Intel. Apple has said that the attorneys in the U.S. have already verified Apple's claims that the source code obtained from Qualcomm and Intel show that the chipsets used in the iDevices were already license-protected by the semiconductor manufacturers.

Apple iPhone Market Share in Mobile PhonesApple and Samsung have been locked in a tight race for the top spot in the global smartphone market over the past few quarters, with both ceding the top spot in a seesaw battle that has seen them slap lawsuits on each other. Samsung, with its myriad choice of smartphones, is likely to take back first place from Apple this quarter after the iPhone 4S torpedoed Apple ahead in the previous quarter.

However, if Apple wins this case against Samsung, it will probably be tough for the latter to hold the fort with its counter-suing tactics.



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