Apple and Samsung have been battling for years, in courts all around the world, over allegations that Samsung has stolen some of Apple’s intellectual property (IP) in designing its smartphones.
So complex has the case become that most people don’t know – or care – who is winning. Both companies are rich as Croesus, and it has become a lawyer’s picnic as Apple and Samsung divvy up the multi-billion dollar smartphone market between them.
Now Microsoft has joined in. It has filed legal action in US District Court, in New York alleging that Samsung has broken a 2011 agreement with Microsoft on the cross-licensing of smartphone IP. Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, David Howard, has explained the rationale for the legal action in a blog posting:
“The legal action is simply to enforce our contract with Samsung. We don’t take lightly filing a legal action, especially against a company with which we’ve enjoyed a long and productive partnership.
“Unfortunately, even partners sometimes disagree. Samsung has made clear in a series of letters and discussions that we have a fundamental disagreement as to the meaning of our contract. In 2011, after months of painstaking negotiation, Samsung voluntarily entered into a legally binding contract with Microsoft to cross-license IP – an agreement which has been extremely beneficial for both parties.
“Since Samsung entered into the agreement, its smartphone sales have quadrupled. When Samsung entered into the agreement in 2011, it shipped 82 million Android smartphones. Just three years later, it shipped 314 million Android smartphones.”
“After becoming the leading player in the worldwide smartphone market, Samsung decided to stop complying with its agreement with Microsoft. In September 2013, after Microsoft announced it was acquiring the Nokia Devices and Services business, Samsung began using the acquisition as an excuse to breach its contract
“Curiously, Samsung did not ask the court to decide whether the Nokia acquisition invalidated its contract with Microsoft, likely because it knew its position was meritless.”
Whether it is meritless or not, and whether Samsung loses the case or not, is in practical terms of little importance. It will not affect either company’s market share or botton line, even if the eventual settlement is in the billions. Samsung says it is “reviewing” Microsoft’s complaint before responding.