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Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 09:59 am PT (12:59 pm ET)

Samsung loses 'important' patent decision to Apple in Netherlands

Samsung suffered a legal setback on Wednesday in the Netherlands, where a court sided with Apple on a FRAND patent dispute that was characterized as both "important" and "highly meaningful."

The decisions from the District Court of The Hague, Netherlands, was summarized by Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents, who explained that Samsung cannot pursue injunctive relief as long as Apple is willing to negotiate a license agreement under FRAND terms for wireless patents. Samsung is obligated to license certain essential patents under FRAND terms, meaning fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.

In addition, the court also ruled that Samsung cannot assert its 3G/UMTS wireless patents against Apple's latest smartphone, the iPhone 4S. Mueller explained this is because of "patent exhaustion."

"Apple is licensed by extension since it purchases baseband chips from Qualcomm, and Samsung's attempt to terminate its license agreement with Qualcomm as far as third-party beneficiary Apple is concerned failed because Samsung had made a commitment to ETSI, the standards body in charge of 3G, that it would grant irrevocable licenses to its 3G/UMTS essential patents," he wrote.

Mueller declared the decision an "meaningful victory" for Apple, in part because the court's position on FRAND patents means Samsung is unlikely to get much money out of the current litigation.

"So far, Samsung has not been able to prevail with any of its offensive claims against Apple anywhere on this planet," he explained. "Today's ruling is only the latest in a series of losses."

Samsung and Apple currently have more than 30 lawsuits between them in what is a growing legal battle. In its most recent filing, Samsung sued Apple earlier this month in South Korea, seeking to block sales of the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 for alleged violation of three patents.

Even in the face of the legal showdown between Samsung and Apple, Samsung still remains a vital partner for Apple in supplying the company with key components. In particular, Samsung is believed to be the lead manufacturer of Retina displays for Apple's new iPad.