Samsung drops iPhone 4S 3G patent attack [Updated]

Samsung has reportedly abandoned attempts to hound the iPhone 4S with 3G patents it holds, conceding that Apple is covered for their use of the cellular technology through their use of Qualcomm chipsets. The decision was revealed in the latest batch of legal sniping at the Mannheim Regional Court in Germany this morning, patent expert Florian Mueller reports, though Samsung also filed against Apple over a further four patents while the Cupertino company fired back with six suits of its own.Update: The changes aren't so clear-cut after all; more details after the cut.

Samsung's attempted use of 3G patents to cow Apple has been a particularly controversial strategy. Back in September, Apple accused its rival of manipulating open telecom standards, arguing that Samsung had in effect cheated in its handling of the 3G ratifications by failing to disclose that it held patents in certain technologies while simultaneously pushing for them to be included in the final standards.

In fact, Apple alleged, Samsung specifically attempted to change its licensing agreement with Qualcomm – which produces 3G modems such as those found inside the iPhone 4S – to exclude Apple from coverage. That strategy looks to have collapsed, by Samsung's own admission, with Apple falling under Qualcomm's umbrella license.

It's unclear whether Samsung's decision will rescue it from investigation by the European Commission over alleged misuse of FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) patent licensing. Apple claimed Samsung was seeking "outrageous" licensing terms not in keeping with FRAND requirements.

However, two of the four new patents Samsung has sued Apple over today are FRAND patents – the others are unencumbered ones – though details of what exactly they cover have not been revealed.

Update: Samsung has clarified its position today, Florian Mueller reports. "Samsung says it only excluded products with Qualcomm chips without prejudice," he says, "for the mere purpose of streamlining one particular case." The company's legal team has not waived its right to use those 3G patents against products using Qualcomm chips in future cases.