Sprint intervenes, opposes Galaxy Nexus ban

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?