The Rivalry and the Irony: Apple and Samsung

Photo by Adrianna Calvo on

Contributed by: Lenon Ong

Apple could possibly be banned from selling some of its devices in South Korea due to a patent infringement claim. The affected devices include the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPad 9.7, and 9.7-, 10.5-, and 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Specifically, the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy is reviewing allegations that Apple has infringed on a FinFET-related patent belonging to Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). To this end, Business Korea reports that the Korean government is “likely” to rule in favour of KAIST, which would result in the aforementioned ban.

However, there is a glimmer of hope for Apple.

This is because Samsung, Apple’s arch-rival, has filed a challenge in South Korea seeking to invalidate KAIST’s patent. In particular, Samsung is trying to show that KAIST’s invention is not novel. In this regard, novelty is one of the requirements for valid patent registration and it ensures that patents are not claimed over pre-existing subject-matters which have already been made available to the public. Interestingly, there is also parallel litigation under way in the US, where Samsung is appealing against a judgment that ruled in favour of KAIST on the same grounds.

Now, why is Samsung doing this if it benefits its rival?

Well, Samsung uses the same FinFET tech in its homegrown Exynos chips. Therefore, invalidating the patent claim will help it avoid liability for patent infringement. Samsung needs to do this for its own interests, even if Apple benefits indirectly.

Speaking of indirect benefits, the sale of Apple devices also benefits Samsung. The iPhone X, for example, is stuffed with Samsung components: from Samsung’s NAND flash memory chip and DRAM chip, to the OLED displays in the newer iPhones. With Samsung parts stuffed into Apple’s iPhone X like a Thanksgiving turkey, it has been estimated that Samsung can expect a neat profit of approximately USD110 for each iPhone X sold.

This love-hate relationship is rather intriguing as it involves both legal and business motivations. Next time, before you diss your friends in the opposite camp of Apple or Samsung, remember that the latest MacBooks and Samsung devices utilise the USB-C port and they are actually very compatible: more so than iPhones as they utilise the lightning port!

Alas, even the brand new 2018 iPhones utilise the dated lightning port, which was first introduced in 2012.

Such disappointment, considering the hefty price tag.

Find out more about the dispute here:

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