Important Samsung mobile patent likely to be invalid, German court says

The German Federal Patent Court has to decide if patent is valid, Mannheim court says

A mobile-technology patent that Samsung deems essential to the UMTS standard is likely to be invalid, the Regional Court in Mannheim, Germany, said.

Samsung is seeking damages from Apple for infringing the patent. A decision in the dispute scheduled for Friday, however, was postponed by the Mannheim court because the patent is likely invalid, court spokesman Joachim Bock said.

The Mannheim court will wait for the Federal Patent Court in Munich to reach a decision on the patent's validity before it will reaches a verdict. Such a validity procedure typically takes two to three years, said Ariane Mittenberger-Huber, spokeswoman for the Federal Patent Court. She couldn't immediately say how long the validity procedure of Samsung's mobile patent would take.

The court did not specify why the patent in question might be invalid.

However, during the trial Apple cited so-called "prior art," including a version of the UMTS specifications published before the filing of Samsung's patent application, noted Florian Mueller, a legal consultant who has been tapped as an advisor for tech companies including Oracle and Microsoft. "Apple also argued that even if that document had not anticipated Samsung's claimed invention, it would render the patent obvious if combined with a Nortel change request submitted as part of the standard-setting process," Mueller said in a FOSS Patent blog post Friday.

The patent at stake covers a "method and apparatus for reporting inter-frequency measurement using RACH message in a communication system." A Random Access Channel (RACH) is an uplink channel used for network access, control and transmission of short-length data, according to the patent.

Samsung's patent in particular relates to a method and apparatus in which a terminal (or user equipment) reports measurement results to the network, according to the patent.

Because the patent at stake is essential to the UMTS standard, according to Samsung, the company wasn't after a sales ban on Apple devices in Germany. Samsung announced last month that it would withdrawall its requests for European sales bans on Apple products that Samsung alleges infringe on patents it deems essential to industry standards. But while Samsung decided to retract the sales ban requests, it is still seeking damages for standard-essential patents infringed.

"We continue to believe that Apple has infringed our patented mobile communication technologies, and we will continue to take the measures necessary to protect our intellectual property rights," a Samsung spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. Samsung has invested heavily in research and development to create technologies that allow high-performing mobile devices to function properly across numerous networks and brands, she added.

Apple declined to comment.

Both Samsung and Apple patents are being validated by the Federal Patent Court. Last May for instance, Samsung was allowed to challenge the validity of an Apple photo scrolling patent at the Federal Patent Court before the Mannheim court would rule. And a few weeks later, the same court decided to postpone a verdict concerning an Apple touch-related patent asserted in a case against Samsung, until its validity was tested.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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