Samsung drops its bid to ban Apple products in Europe

Is Samsung feeling magnanimous after a U.S. judge refused to ban its smartphones? That could be one reason why the South Korean firm Tuesday dropped its bid to ban Apple products in Europe. Although the company described its decision to withdraw requests to ban Apple devices in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands as “protect[ing] consumer choice”, the Galaxy maker will continue to see Apple for licensing fees of patents it contends were violated by the company…

The company issued a statement to The Verge:

Samsung has decided to withdraw our injunction requests against Apple on the basis of our standard essential patents pending in European courts, in the interest of protecting consumer choice.

Apple objects to Samsung’s patent licensing fees, saying they violate the FRAND concept of offering technology vital to all products in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory way.

At the same time, the European Commission was investigating whether Samsung violated any European Union rules regarding patent licensing of essential technology.

Closer to home, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh denied Apple’s request to ban sales of some Samsung Galaxy products.

Although Apple earlier won a $1 billion judgement against its rival for violating the iPhone maker’s patents, Koh Monday night ruled that Apple had not proven a sales ban should be enacted.

Responding to the judge’s statement, patent law observer Florian Müeller called the ruling “a game-changer” in the long-running legal battle between the two competitors. He also suspects the European Commission “was behind this”:

There can be no doubt whatsoever that the European Commission was behind this. Samsung would never have done this voluntarily, especially not in jurisdictions such as Germany that do not rule out SEP-based injunctions at all. Nor are there signs of a partial or complete settlement (otherwise there would have been a joint announcement, with Apple also dropping some claims).

But what’s the European Commmission gotta do with it:

The only plausible explanations for this unilateral withdrawal involve the European Commmission. One is that the European Commission presented Samsung with Hobson’s Choice, and the other possibility is that Samsung altered course before reaching that point.

Though a stretch, the notion makes (some) sense.

Samsung Galaxy S III teaser (inspired by nature, designed by humans)

At the same time, Koh also denied Samsung’s request for a new trial due to what it claimed was misconduct by jury foreman Velvin Hogan.

In her opinion, Koh said Hogan during jury selection revealed he had previously sued hard drive maker Seagate. It was up to Samsung to have discovered that fact prior to the jury’s decision, she ruled.

While today’s US ruling likely will prompt more appeals, could 2013 bring a change in the battle between Apple and Samsung? Might we see – as Samsung alluded to in its European statement – a move away from legal confrontations to instead concentrate on market competition?

Then, again, there’s this whole Mayan end of the world thing, too.