Apple acquired more than 300 new advanced long-term evolution (LTE) patents within the past year, creating a buffer if Samsung makes good on its threats to sue the Cupertino company if it releases any devices with LTE technology.
Since the iPhone 5 is rumored to have the speedy mobile tech, LTE is likely to become the next battleground in Apple and Samsung's well publicized patent war.
Over the past year, Apple's gained 318 patents regarding the fourth-generation mobile technology, according to the Korea Intellectual Property Office.
Raking in the patents
Last year, the iPhone purveyor had no LTE patents, but now ranks among the top 10 patent holders for LTE technology with just about 5 percent of total LTE patents held worldwide.
"This shows that Apple has been taking strategic steps to acquire intellectual property to prepare for potential legal disputes before it launches its own LTE smartphones," a KIPO official told The Chosun Ilbo.
Apple developed about 44 of those patents itself. The company then bought the rest of the patents from Nortel and Freescale.
Apple also owns a major part of a patent enforcement company, Rockstar Bidco, which has an additional 116 patents, bringing Apple's current LTE patent holdings to 434.
However, if Apple hopes to rival Samsung's number of LTE patents, it will have to get busy acquiring a few more.
The South Korean company is the No. 1 LTE patent holder, with a total of 819. That's about twice the amount of arrows Apple has in its LTE patent quiver.
Though the extra patents will help protect Apple from Samsung suits, how sure those defenses are remains to be seen.
The Chosun Ilbo reported that Apple only holds undisclosed commercial patents for its LTE technology, but disclosed standard technological patents provide more legal firepower. So Apple may find itself at a disadvantage when it comes time to defend those patents.
Another interesting wrinkle is that versions of the iPad already have LTE technology, but Samsung has yet to sue. We'll see if this comes into play when the two techno-giants head back to court December 6.
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