By Kim Yoo-chul
Samsung Electronics has recently made a legal request in the United States for Apple to unveil its contract with Qualcomm, according to a copy of court documents acquired by The Korea Times.
Samsung confirmed that the request was for Apple and Qualcomm to reveal their deal, said Samsung Electronics spokeswoman Lim Yoon-jeong.
It is believed that the court decision can be critical because Samsung has a cross-licensing deal with Qualcomm and Apple is buying chips from the latter.
The issue at point is whether Apple’s buying Qualcomm chips is as good as paying for the patents.
Samsung plans to submit Apple and Qualcomm’s terms of agreements to eight courts in Germany, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, France as well as Korea, according to Samsung officials.
S.S. Kim, a senior Qualcomm spokesman in Korea, declined to comment.
Steve Park, an Apple spokesman in Seoul, reiterated an earlier response that Apple needs to protect its intellectual property against “blatant copying.”
The copy of the Samsung request filed with the U.S. District Court in California shows Samsung defense lawyer Dylan Ruga is seeking documents from Qualcomm, which are relevant to the issue of whether Apple is a “Qualcomm Customer.”
The documents are only available on a subscription-based service run by the U.S. government. But they have yet to be released by the court.
“We need all agreements pursuant to which Qualcomm supplies or supplied ‘Qualcomm MDM6610’ chipsets to any person of entity and all documents that evidence, reflect or refer to the use by Apple of Qualcomm chipsets in iPhones or iPads,” the document said.
Samsung believes that contract details between Qualcomm and Apple are highly relevant to the ongoing patent litigation as Apple has taken the position that it is a “Qualcomm Customer,” as that term is defined in certain licensing agreements between Samsung and Qualcomm, the document said.
“Apple must have purchased the chipsets at issue from Qualcomm and integrated them into the devices it sells to the public. Thus, the chain of distribution from Qualcomm to Apple is a central issue in Samsung-Apple disputes,” said the attorney at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, counsel of record for applicant Samsung Electronics in this matter.
If the Samsung request is accepted, it will be able to use the classified Qualcomm files to further expand its attack on Apple in eight separate cases globally.
Samsung Electronics is alleging that Apple has infringed on Samsung-owned patents that relate to technology embodied in chipsets used in Apple’s iPhones and iPads.
The documents are expected to determine whether Apple is in fact a direct customer of Qualcomm — and potentially immune from Samsung’s suits — or whether it purchased its chips through an intermediary.
“One of Apple’s primary defenses is that it is entitled to use the chipsets at issue,” Samsung claimed in the document.
While Apple has claimed Samsung demanded exorbitant fees as high as a “2.4 percent levy” on every chip inside Apple’s iPhone 4S, Samsung attorneys argued in Australia and other countries that Apple “didn’t act reasonably in negotiations.”
“Samsung seeks to streamline discovery in the litigation with Apple by requesting these highly-relevant documents only once, rather than issuing duplicative requests in each of the foreign litigations,” said the court document filed by Samsung.
German-based patent blogger Florian Mueller said, “If the supply chain makes a legal difference, it’s perfectly reasonable for Samsung to request such documents.”
“It can’t be ruled out that the way the covenant not to sue is worded makes a distinction between customers supplied directly by Qualcomm and those who buy Qualcomm baseband chips from or through third parties,” Mueller said.
Samsung mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun recently told reporters that Samsung’s “hawkish stance” against Apple hasn’t changed.
“Samsung is preparing various measures, legally, technologically and commercially over the litigation issue,” the mobile chief said earlier this month.