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Why Huawei is suing Samsung over cellphone patents

Silly you. You thought the mobile patent wars were over.


Chinese telecom giant Huawei said Tuesday it is taking Korean rival Samsung to court over patents related to 4G cellphone standards.

Huawei said it is filing similar suits this week in U.S. federal court and in China, with the litigation covering patents that relate to both cellphones and cellular infrastructure. Huawei said it has been trying to license its vast patent portfolio on fair and reasonable terms with Samsung but has been unable to do so.

"As the holder of a vast portfolio of patents it is our responsibility to ensure that we are compensated for our innovation and likewise that others are compensated for theirs," Huawei Vice President of Strategic and External Affairs Bill Plummer told Recode. "That's the lifeblood of this industry; that's what drives openness and innovation."

In recent months, Huawei has reached deals with Ericsson and Apple on patents, with the Cupertino-based company paying an undisclosed amount in royalties to Huawei.

The mobile patent wars, which at one point had nearly every company suing or being sued, had been seemingly on the wane of late.

What's unique about the case is this time it is a Chinese company doing the suing. In general, Chinese companies have found themselves more often on the defensive with regards to patents, though Huawei prides itself on the billions of dollars it spends on research and development.

The company says it has 80,000 people in research and development, investing $9.2 billion annually — that's 15 percent of global sales — and has more than 50,000 patents globally.

Samsung has found itself in patent battles before, of course, including its long-running dispute with Apple, which it has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Samsung representative was not immediately available for comment.

Update: Below is a copy of the publicly available (and significantly redacted) version of the U.S. lawsuit. The most interesting thing about it is that not only are some details hidden from public view, but even one of the causes of action is blacked out. Huawei is not only suing over patent infringement but also for another claim that is apparently too secret for the world to know.

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