Samsung is exploring the possibility of filing a lawsuit against Apple over the next iPhone, potentially arguing that the device infringes on Samsung's LTE wireless patents, according to unnamed industry sources quoted by the The Korea Times.
Apple is widely expected to launch an iPhone 5 that supports 4G LTE cellular service at an event on Wednesday. In March, Apple launched a new iPad that uses LTE wireless over networks run by Verizon Wireless and AT&T -- a move that suggests it's likely that the next iPhone will also support LTE.
Samsung officials could not be reached to comment on the report. Samsung is based in Seoul, South Korea, the country where SK Telecom will reportedly offer the next iPhone with LTE.
Samsung also makes the Galaxy S III smartphone, which runs over LTE, along with several other Android phones. Last week, Samsung issued a statement saying that the Galaxy S III had sold 20 million units since its debut in May, making it Samsung's most successful smartphone ever, with stronger sales than any of its Galaxy S predecessors.
Because of the competition between Samsung and Apple in the smartphone market, a patent lawsuit over LTE seems highly likely, analysts said. Samsung recently was ordered by a jury in U.S. District Court to pay Apple $1.05 billion for infringing on Apple patents. At the same time, in a ruling on a patent dispute, a court in South Korea ordered Apple to stop selling iPads and iPhones in that country. Other smartphone patent battles between the two companies are under way in other countries.
One unnamed industry source in the Korea Times report said Samsung's patents governing LTE technology are "new and highly valued," implying that new patent infringement claims by Samsung would have more weight than similar claims by the company in an earlier disagreement with Apple over 3G wireless patents. Those 3G patents were termed "standard essential patents" governed by FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) rules agreed upon by Samsung, the source said.
Florian Mueller, a patent law expert who writes the Fosspatents blog, said that Samsung is likely to try to sue Apple in many courts on many grounds, although it was unsuccessful when it brought a suit against Apple over 3G UMTS wireless patents. Mueller noted that Apple prevailed in cases involving 3G patents because several courts concluded Apple had a license for those patents for its iPhone 4S, as a customer of chip supplier Qualcomm.
Likewise, "the iPhone 5 will also have a Qualcomm baseband chipset, which ups the ante for Samsung," Mueller said in an email Tuesday.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.