Apple takes fire from Alcatel-Lucent while reloading for Samsung fight

Smartphone market resembles gunfight at the O.K. Corral
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The smartphone market is beginning to resemble the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. An Alcatel-Lucent unit began shooting this week at Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and LG Electronics over a patent infringement dispute, while Apple was reloading for its patent fight against Samsung, and Samsung was taking cover from Ericsson.

On Monday, a jury trial kicked off in a San Diego federal court to hear Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary Multimedia Patent Trust's claim that Apple and LG copied its video-compression technology used to send data more efficiently over smartphones and other communications media, according to a Bloomberg report.

Products named in the lawsuit include Apple's iPhone, iPod, iPad and MacBook, and LG's Chocolate Touch, Bliss, Touch, Lotus Elite, Mystique and Samba smartphones, the report noted.

Alcatel-Lucent is seeking a "reasonable royalty" based on what it should have been paid if a licensing agreement were in effect before the infringement occurred. A financial analyst cited in the court filings estimated that Apple would have to pay $195.9 million in royalties, while LG would pay a mere $9.1 million.

Apple and LG are disputing the infringement claim, arguing that the technology at issue is a small part of its multicomponent products, according to Bloomberg.

The Alcatel-Lucent broadside comes at a time when Apple is reloading for its smartphone patent fight against Samsung. Apple is seeking to add six more products to its patent infringement lawsuit against the Korean firm: The Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, Galaxy Tab 8.9 Wi-Fi, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, Rugby Pro and Galaxy S III mini, according a research note from Zacks Equity Research.

Apple wants to have Samsung's smartphones and tablets permanently banned from the U.S. market. U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh will examine Apple's claims during a hearing next month, the note observed.

In August, Apple won a stunning $1 billion patent-infringement verdict against Samsung, a verdict that the Korean firm is appealing.

Apple is trying to win a battle in the legal arena that it could not win in the market. Samsung's Galaxy S3 has overtaken Apple's iPhone 4S as the world's best-selling smartphone model, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Apple recently succeeded in cutting a deal with HTC over smartphone patent litigation. And Apple and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Motorola have been trading patent lawsuits against each other.

At the same time, Samsung recently took fire from Ericsson, which filed a mobile patent lawsuit against the Korean handset maker.

Ericsson is charging that Samsung is infringing its mobile technology patent by not agreeing to renew its licensing agreement with the Swedish firm. Samsung said Ericsson's terms for the license renewal are excessive.

With all the legal gunfights going on in the smartphone space, all that's needed is for aliens to join the fray. I wonder whether their communications devices would infringe any Apple patents.

For more:
- see the Bloomberg article
- check out the Zacks research note
- see Ericsson's release

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