Notable case: Huawei v. Samsung

Notable case: Huawei v. Samsung

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a government to the inventor of an invention.  When an inventor is granted a patent on an invention, the inventor is granted a monopoly on the invention for a limited time.  The rationale behind patents is to encourage inventors to share their inventions with the public.  In exchange for sharing their knowledge, the inventor is given the exclusive right to make, use and sell the invention.  If someone other than the inventor makes, uses or sells a patented invention, that is known as patent infringement.  The owner of the patent can sue to stop the infringement and get money damages.

Patents are territorial, a patent issued by one country is not valid in other countries.  For this reason inventors frequently request patents in multiple countries. The world is more connected today than it ever has been in history, parts of product are frequently made and assembled in multiple countries.  This means that when a patent is infringed, the infringing activity can occur in multiple countries and the courts of many different countries are asked to review the same facts.

Take for example the dispute between Huawei and Samsung.  Huawei is a major electronics manufacturer headquartered in the Shenzhen, China.  It makes many different products, including the components that make mobile phones work.  Samsung is also a major electronics manufacturer that makes mobile phone components, headquartered in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

In May of 2016 Huawei sued Samsung for patent infringement and failing to license its standard-essential 3GPP and LTE patents on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.  Huawei filed suit in both Shenzhen China and in California, United States.

Some people watching this case might fear that Huawei will be fighting an uphill battle in a United States federal court because Huawei is a Chinese company.  That fear is not supported by the facts.  Federal court judges in the United States are appointed for life terms to remove the possibility of outside influences.  Federal court judges frequently are asked to try cases that involve powerful influences, their life time appointment guarantees that they will apply the law to the facts of the case impartially and produce a decision which is free from outside influence.  In the case of Huawei and Samsung, it is a relatively simple analysis.  Were Huawei’s patents infringed?

Samsung attempted to get some of Huawei’s United States patents invalidated on the ground that the patents were  abstract mathematical formulas, not eligible for patent protection.  The United States Federal DIstrict Court Judge found for Huawei.  The judge found that patent claims were directed to a specific improvement in cellular communications, and not an abstract idea or mathematical formula.  The judge in the United States has not yet reached the part of the trial where it will be determined if Samsung infringed on Huawei’s patents.

At the same time, in Shenzhen, the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court found that Samsung has infringed on Huawei’s patents and issued an injunction against Samsung.  Huawei, made an interesting strategic move and did not ask for money damages in China, just an injunction.

Samsung has requested that the United States judge issue an order to Huawai to not enforce the Shenzhen court’s injunction.  The United States judge has not issued his decision on that request yet.  Whether the judge will grant Samsungs request is unknown today, but in a past dispute between Vringo and ZTE, a different United States judge did not interfere with a Chinese courts ruling in that matter.

Whatever decision the United States judge in the Huawei v. Samsung case comes to, it will be based on the law and the facts and not the nationality of the parties.

If you have questions of comments for the authors of this blog please email us: