The iPhone-friendly carrier Sprint, the nation’s third-largest telco, today filed amicus brief (a legal opinion) with the Federal Circuit concerning a sales injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone sought by Apple. Sprint is arguing that no party, Apple included, should be allowed to leverage a sales ban as “a staple of the smartphone wars”.

The carrier paints itself as an “unwitting victim” of the large-scale Apple-Samsung legal wrangling, saying it just wants the issue to be fully resolved without an immediate ban…

Co-defendant Google filed is brief last Friday.

As you know, the Court of Appeals has chosen to temporarily suspend the ban on Galaxy Nexus sales at Samsung’s request. The Samsung-made Galaxy Nexus is important as it’s arguably the best “stock Android” device with Google branding.

Apple has two days left to file its opposition to Samsung’s motion to stay the ban for the entire duration of the appellate proceedings, meaning the injunction cannot be enforced unless the Federal Circuit decides on whether to extend or lift this stay.

Patent expert Florian Müeller, who covers litigation and patents over at his blog FOSS Patents, says Sprint isn’t siding with Google or Apple as its motivation is a simple one: the uninterrupted availability of wireless devices.

He explains:

Sprint says it would take this position if the roles between Apple and Samsung are reversed, or if different companies were involved. Sprint doesn’t comment on the merits of the case. It just wants the issue to be fully litigated without an immediate ban.

The carrier is afraid that a sales ban on the Galaxy Nexus might hurt its bottom line.

Since “bringing a device to market takes hundreds of people approximately 9-12 months”, Sprint argues that preliminary injunctions come down too fast to replace banned products with non-infringing new ones. It furthermore says that “an immediate preliminary injunction against a device substantially and irreparably harms Sprint by leaving a void in its device portfolio”.

That’s a bit surprising stance considering that, by some estimates, iPhones are outselling all other smartphones combined at Sprint and AT&T and selling at roughly equal volume to all Android smartphones at Verizon.

Sprint’s been selling the iPhone for eight months now (versus five years for AT&T and nearly 18 months for Verizon). They activated 1.5 million iPhones in Q1 2012, 44 percent to new customers, amounting to 660,000 new iPhone subscribers.

The company bet the farm by committing to buy almost $15.5 billion worth of iPhones from Apple, though it’s not seen turning profit on the device until at least 2015 due to high subsidy Apple’s device commands.

By the way, in case you were wondering: an amicus curiae is a legal Latin phrase denoting a non-party to a lawsuit that volunteers to offer information to assist a court in deciding a matter before it.

Interesting enough, Samsung has managed to circumvent Apple’s ‘604 “unified search” patent on the Galaxy S III with the latest software update which simply kills the feature. Makes you wonder why the heck Google doesn’t do the same here and just remove goddamn universal search from the Nexus?

What’s your take, should carriers refrain from intervening in legal proceedings between handset vendors?

  • “Since “bringing a device to market takes hundreds of people approximately 9-12 months”, Sprint argues that preliminary injunctions come down too fast to replace banned products with non-infringing new ones. […]”

    Maybe Sprint and the manufacturers should stop whining and just engineer something proper in the first place? But I assume that would take too long, since they state copying successful products already takes 9-12 months..

    • Sprint doesn’t manufacture anything, they just sell the phones. Being the 3rd largest tele-com provider in the US is why this would hurt them so much.

      • They helped manufacture the Samsung Instinct… gave Samsung the specs and Sprint designed the OS. It was a huge mistake and is what made me leave Sprint for AT&T and the iPhone 3GS years ago.

      • Gee, why did I get a down vote for that? Fact is the Samsung Instinct sucked. I was big into the community on the Sprint boards and tried to help make it a better phone, but it sucked. What made Sprint think they could make their own mobile OS is beyond me. And the fact that they advertised it as an “iPhone Killer” only made things worse.

        So pointing out that Sprint did try their hand at manufacturing gets me a down vote? Glad they failed at that experiment and went back to just doing Android, WM, BB and now iPhone.

  • “Makes you wonder why the heck Google doesn’t do the same here and just remove goddamn universal search from the Nexus?” Why? Because you should be able to access anything on your phone just by searching for it, and it shouldn’t be patentable in the first place. Why the hell Apple keeps trying to deny innovation is beyond me. Oh, that’s right, it’s because the S3 is the slated “iPhone killer,” with the Nexus being very close second to that. If you can’t innovate yourself, might as well litigate everyone else to death.

    • I think the patent office approves any and every patent Apple shoots their way. It’s not like Apple invented the whole concept of searching. Apple didn’t invent voice dictation or voice activation, rounded corners, the shade of black, the notion that screens should be flat etc… yet they get patents on these and sue everyone under the sun for such things.

  • apple is just jealous cuz the androids have more features better phone its like comparing pc to mac macs are just locked tight pc is more

    • I still think iOS 5 was Apple stealing ideas from Android and the jailbreak community.

      I shouldn’t have to jailbreak my iPhone in order to get such simple and basic customization options or things like the Weather icon to display the actual current weather on the icon instead of always sunny and 73­°. Widgets, SBSettings and other things seem so common sense, yet Apple doesn’t want you to do such things.