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Apple, Samsung agree to end of non-U.S. patent suits

Tech giants Apple and Samsung have agreed to set aside their differences – outside of the U.S., that is. The battling rivals announced in a joint statement that they were ending their patent disputes outside of the U.S.

A request for comment from both parties today yielded the following response: “Apple and Samsung have agreed to drop all litigation between the two companies outside the United States. This agreement does not involve any licensing arrangements, and the companies are continuing to pursue the existing cases in U.S. courts.” This statement was also initially published in the Wall Street Journal.

The disputes have been a he-said, she-said battle of epic proportions with Apple accusing Samsung of copying its iPhone designs and Samsung retaliating by claiming that Apple is using aspects of its wireless-transmission technology without permission. This latest agreement means the end of suits in Japan, Australia and Germany, among others. The battle in the U.S., however, is just starting.

So while the global battle is winding down, the patent wars are still very much on the go. Gary Moss, partner at IP law firm, EIP said the long term implications of this are not clear. “Short term there will be a considerable saving in resources and legal fees for both companies – they have been going hammer and tongs at each other in multiple jurisdictions and this will now cease,” he said.

He added: “But it is clear that this is not an end to the war, merely a tactical withdrawal by each side in order to regroup. The cases in the United States will proceed and there is no overall licensing deal.” Moss said it might be that the parties have decided to allow those US cases to effectively decide the overall global battle between them, or it could be that this initial ceasefire is a precursor to negotiation of a wider peace treaty. “Time will tell,” he said.

Lorna Brazell, Partner at international law firm, Osborne Clarke, said: “Clearly Apple has now accepted that legal actions on its IP rights are not going to get and keep the Samsung Galaxy off the market, which means Samsung’s incentive to continue attacking Apple – the best form of defense – evaporates… so the battle will now move into the commercial side, meaning other players will be facing renewed competition from these two giants and will need to continue to improve their product offerings in order to retain market share. “

But, she said, it is not the end of the patent wars in the sector. “These products comprise tens of thousands of technologies developed and owned by a much wider range of companies than the headline players, and disputes will continue to arise when negotiations over who gets what share of the pie stall,” Brazell said. “More players will be involved in the 5G round of negotiations, with different expectations and strategies.  But it may not have quite the white-hot fury of the Apple-Samsung epic.”

Moss agrees, adding: “[I]t is unlikely that this is heralding complete cessation of the ongoing telecoms patent wars. There is plenty of life left in those disputes!”

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