Samsung files appeal with board against dual-SIM patent

Samsung files appeal with board against dual-SIM patent

Mumbai: In a new twist to the impasse over dual-SIM mobile phones, the Indian arm of South Korean electronics firm Samsung on Thursday filed a petition with the Intellectual Property Appellate Board, or IPAB, asking it to revoke an existing patent for such phones issued to an Indian inventor.

Indian phone maker Spice Mobiles Ltd last month filed a similar appeal.

Members of the Indian Cellular Association, or ICA, also plan to file petitions challenging the validity of the patent, a spokesperson for the organization said. At least 50 phone makers and importers, including Spice are members of ICA. They have been at loggerheads with the Madurai-based patent holder Somasundaram Ramkumar after he registered his patent with Indian customs authorities earlier this year, enabling them to seize import consignments of dual-SIM phones.

IPAB is the country’s patent disputes redressal forum. SIM stands for subscriber identification module, the technology that activates and identifies a unique wireless phone connection. Dual-SIM phones can hold more than one SIM card, and thus have two numbers working on it.

Ramkumar, an electronics engineer, was granted the patent by the Chennai patent office in 2008. He registered the patent with Indian customs under the Intellectual Property Rights (imported goods) Enforcement Rules earlier this year. “The ground for the appeal is that the technology claimed by Ramkumar for the patent lacks novelty, (and) thus (is) not patentable," said a person familiar with the case who didn’t want to be identified.

Samsung’s appeal and other appeals in the pipeline are a reaction to recent seizures by customs officials in India of several consignments of imported mobile phones.

Samsung India Electronics Pvt. Ltd, currently the largest importer of such phones, last month moved a petition in the Delhi high court challenging these seizures.

A patent lawyer for a mobile phone importer said, “The dual SIM technology used in mobile phones has been in the public domain internationally. Since it has been referred in the prior art (documents previously available in the public domain), it should not have been granted a patent in India." For his part, Ramkumar argues that the idea of one phone that can carry two SIM cards of different telcos is a novel one when compared with prior art references.

“All imported mobile phones related to dual SIM sockets for accepting dual SIM cards are infringing my patented technology with circuit diagram as claimed in my Indian patent number 214388," Ramkumar said in a telephone interview.

“I have a valid patent and also have enough evidence to prove that my patent has been infringed by imported dual SIM socket mobile phones. I can surely win cases against mobile phone manufacturing companies and mobile phone importers," he added.

Mint had reported in March that Samsung’s petition had questioned the linking of patent and customs laws. Customs officials at various airports had earlier confirmed to Mint that imports of dual SIM card mobile phones have been under watch since Ramkumar registered his exclusivity right with them.

Patent experts, however, say that since the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rule doesn’t cover patents, the customs department cannot decide such actions on its own.

The Madras high court had last month ordered the customs department to detain imports that infringe Ramkumar’s patent following his petition.