A Samsung Electronics patent the company has declared essential to the implementation of 3G mobile standards is likely to be invalid, the Regional Court of Mannheim in Germany said Friday.
Because the patent is likely to be invalid, the court postponed a decision in a lawsuit Samsung brought against Apple, court spokesman Joachim Bock said in an email. A decision will have to wait until the Federal Patent Court has decided on the validity of the patent, he added.
"The suspension of the proceeding requires a high probability that the patent is invalid. In these cases the court has to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a suspension," Bock said. If the patent is declared valid, Mannheim court is likely to rule that Apple infringes on it, he said. Samsung is seeking damages from Apple for the alleged infringement.
The patent in suit is titled "Method for configuring gain factors for uplink service in radio telecommunication system" and relates to a Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) telecommunication system, a standard used in 3G networks.
Samsung declared it a standard-essential patent (SEP), obliging it to under the rules of the industry standards body to license it on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. Companies however often disagree on what constitutes a fair licensing price for such SEPs.
"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 via email.
Samsung so far had not much success in German patent courts.
In January for instance, the same Mannheim court also postponed a decision in a case between Samsung and Apple because the Samsung patent in suit was likely to be invalid. In that case, the validity of a patent Samsung deems essential to the UMTS 3G standard was disputed.
Another Samsung 3G patent that describes a technology that relates to a device and method for encoding and decoding channel data in a mobile communication system, was invalidated by the Federal Patent Court in April.
Samsung's strategy is also disputed by the European Commission, which found that seeking sales bans on products with its standard essential patents was an abuse of the company's dominant market position. As a result, Samsung dropped all its requests for sales bans in Europe, although it continued to seek damages in those lawsuits.
Apple did not reply to a request for comment.
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 email@example.com