While Apple and Samsung carry a lot of baggage relating to their legal past and current competitive environment, they are also somewhat cordial when it comes to a manufacturer-supplier relationship. Samsung provides components for Apple products ranging from displays to NAND flash chips; the company also recently secured a contract to produce the A9 processor that will go in Apple’s next generation iPhone.
The strangely intertwined relationship took an even stranger turn late last week, and it involves a patent troll that we’ve talked about previously here on HotHardware. In late February, a jury in Tyler, Texas ordered Apple to pay Smartflash $532.9 million for infringing on three patents related to data storage, payment systems, and digital rights managements (DRM). Samsung has also found itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit from Smartflash, but the South Korean electronics giant is fighting back with all its legal might.
Samsung has successfully argued to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that it should review two Smartflash patents that are the center of both the lawsuit that it currently faces and the $533 million judgment against Apple. Interestingly enough, preliminary findings by the patent agency review board have found that the Smartflash patents are ineligible for legal protection due to the fact that they cover abstract ideas.
This interesting turn of events could play right into Apple’s hands -- that is if it can stall paying off the $533 million while Samsung gets its ducks in a row with the patent challenge. And Samsung’s challenge has a strong chance of actually succeeding. As Bloomberg reports, 100 percent of the cases brought before the patent agency’s review board involving abstract ideas have been denied legal protection.
Even more appealing is the fact that Samsung is also challenging the third patent that resulted in its Smartflash’s legal victory over Apple. Apple is currently in the process of appealing its court loss, but we’re certain that the company’s legal team will find a way to prolong the proceedings while Samsung has all of Smartflash’s patents invalidated.