Verizon sides with Samsung against Apple in patent dispute

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) said that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) decision to file an injunction to block the sale of Samsung devices in the U.S. for violating Apple patents will harm its LTE network and U.S. consumers.

In an amicus brief filed Friday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Verizon argued that the dispute, which started in April, will harm the public interest by blocking the sale of LTE devices. The decision by Verizon to intervene on Samsung's behalf is a new twist in a legal battle that stretches from the United States to Europe to Australia. Apple is seeking to block the sale of, among other devices, the Samsung Droid Charge and the GalaxyTab 10.1 with LTE, both of which run on Verizon's LTE network. 

"An injunction would prohibit some of the newest, most advanced wireless devices sold today and impede the growth of Verizon Wireless' high-speed 4G network," the carrier said in its brief. "The accused Samsung devices are among the few products that can access Verizon Wireless' next-generation high-speed network and therefore are among the most sought-after devices by early-adopting consumers--a critical market segment in the industry."

Verizon said it has invested billions of dollars in its LTE network and that Apple is seeking to block the sale of Samsung's LTE devices at a time when the carrier is expanding its LTE footprint. Verizon currently covers 143 markets and 160 million POPs with LTE and plans to increase that to 175 markets and 185 million POPs by year-end.

An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"While Verizon Wireless supports without reservation the protection of intellectual property rights, in this case these rights inherent in the utility patent can be fully vindicated through an award of monetary damages," Verizon said. "In contrast, any factors favoring the proposed injunction are outweighed by the public interest in protecting a competitive marketplace, consumers, and Verizon Wireless who has invested heavily in a network of which the accused Samsung devices are an important part."

What makes Verizon's decision to side with Samsung so striking is that Verizon and Apple forged an alliance this year, allowing Verizon to sell the iPhone 4 and iPad 2. However, Verizon is also a strong supporter of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform, and Apple's patent battles with Android licensees have been widely seen as proxy battles between Apple and Google.

In addition to the Verizon developments, Samsung argued in a court case against Apple in the Netherlands that Apple is "structurally" infringing on the 3G network technology patents it holds.

Apple and Samsung have been locked in an escalating patent battle since April when Apple accused Samsung of "slavishly" copying the iPhone and iPad. Apple became the world's largest smartphone vendor by volume in the second quarter, and analysts said Samsung was not far behind it in the No. 2 spot. Samsung provides chipsets for Apple's smartphones and tablets, which makes the dispute that much more awkward.

For more:
- see this Verizon filing
- see this Reuters article
- see this ZDNet article
- see this FOSS Patents post
- see this Bloomberg article

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