US panel backs Samsung, bans older Apple devices

Updated 05 June 2013
0

US panel backs Samsung, bans older Apple devices

WASHINGTON: Samsung won a round in its long-running patent battle with Apple on Tuesday when a US trade panel banned the import and sale of some older models of the iPhone and iPad.
The quasi-judicial International Trade Commission said it issued a “limited exclusion order” for certain devices made by Apple, in a victory for the South Korean firm after a huge loss in a court fight with its US rival last year.
The loss dealt to Apple by the ITC could make the Cupertino, California-based company more amenable to negotiating settlements on some of the many legal fronts where it is waging patent war with Samsung.
“Up to now, Apple has been winning the big judgments, which means there was no reason to come to the table,” said independent Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle.
“It looked like Apple held all the cards,” he said. “But if this holds up and both companies have something to lose, you can get negotiation.”
Tuesday’s victory could be largely symbolic because the ban covers devices that are no longer actively sold in the US market — the AT&T iPhone 4 and iPhone 3 and 3GS, as well as the iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G, also sold by AT&T.
But it is likely that Samsung will explore the feasibility of launching similar legal attacks at newer products from the company, according to Enderle.
“Typically, once you win something like this you try to apply it to the new products,” the analyst said. “This may put enough risk on Apple to get them more open to talking with Samsung.”
The ITC ruling is a final order but may be appealed in the US Court of Appeals or reversed by presidential order.
“We believe the ITC’s final determination has confirmed Apple’s history of free-riding on Samsung’s technological innovations,” a Samsung statement said.
“Our decades of research and development in mobile technologies will continue, and we will continue to offer innovative products to consumers in the United States.”
Apple did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
The case was filed in August 2011 amid a flurry of litigation between the two rivals over patents in the hot market for tablets and smartphones.
In a separate patent fight in US federal court, Samsung was ordered last August to pay more than $1 billion for patent infringement, which also opens the door to a ban on some Samsung devices.
A judge later slashed the award to $598.9 million.
Apple has been seeking to ban some of the newer 4G phones from Samsung’s Galaxy line, as well as the Droid Charge sold through Verizon in that case, which is being appealed.
The news came on the same day the White House moved to crack down on abuses of the patent system, responding to mounting concern among technology companies over a flood of litigation that some say stifles innovation.
The White House said new action is needed in the face of a flood of recent patent litigation, particularly in the smartphone sector, and because “several major companies spend more on patent litigation and defensive acquisition than on research and development.”
The latest moves target so-called “patent trolls” which, according to the White House, “hijack” ideas and take other companies to court with an eye to collecting license or royalty fees.
Meanwhile, Apple has asked a federal judge in Silicon Valley to add Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy smartphone to the list of devices targeted in a patent lawsuit involving Siri personal assistant software.
The motion to amend the lawsuit to include the Galaxy S4 will be on the agenda of a June 25 hearing before US District Court Judge Paul Grewal in the California city of San Jose.
The trial is not expected to begin until early next year.
After years of following and refining the iPhone’s pioneering innovations — a strategy that resulted in bitter patent battles with Apple — Samsung has dethroned its rival to become the world’s top smartphone maker.


Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

Updated 20 April 2018
0

Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

  • Exxon’s talks with Iraq on water project hit problems
  • Losing the contract could deal a blow to Exxon’s broader Iraqi plans

LONDON: Talks between Exxon Mobil and Iraq on a multibillion-dollar infrastructure contract have reached an impasse, Iraqi officials and two industry sources said, in a potential setback to the oil major’s ambitions to expand in the country.

More than two years of negotiations on awarding the US firm a project to build a water treatment facility and related pipelines needed to boost Iraq’s oil production capacity have hit difficulties because the two sides differ on contract terms and costs, the officials and sources told Reuters.

Unless the differences can be resolved, the project could be awarded to another company in a tender, the officials said, without elaborating on the points of dispute.

Losing the contract could deal a blow to Exxon’s broader Iraqi plans, as it would be handed rights to develop at least two southern oilfields — Nahr Bin Umar and Artawi — as part of the deal.

Exxon declined to comment.

Further delays to the project could also hold back the oil industry in Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer; the country needs to inject water into its wells or risk losing pressure and face severe decline rates, especially at its mature oilfields. As freshwater is a scarce resource in Iraq, using treated seawater is one of the best alternatives.

The Common Seawater Supply Project (CSSP), which would supply water to more than six southern oilfields, including Exxon’s existing West Qurna 1 field and BP’s Rumaila, was initially planned to be completed in 2013 but has now been delayed until 2022.

“The CSSP would be expensive and challenging but there’s opportunity here (for Exxon) ... to get access to resources on a very large scale and to achieve something and really make a difference to its own business,” said Ian Thom, principal analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

Many of the world’s biggest oil companies, such as BP, Total, Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, have operations in Iraq, where a low-return environment and strict contract terms have squeezed returns in recent years.

With total oil production at West Qurna 1 at around 430,000 bpd, Exxon’s presence in Iraq is small compared with dominant player BP whose Rumaila oilfield accounts for around a third of the country’s total production of about 4.4 million bpd.

While the Texas-based firm is looking to grow in Iraq, its geographical focus remains on the Americas, including US shale fields and Brazil, in contrast to rivals such as France’s Total and Italy’s Eni who have been significantly expanding their activities in the Middle East in recent years.

The talks between Iraqi authorities and Exxon are still ongoing, according to the industry sources and officials from the Iraqi oil ministry.

However the state-run Basra Oil Company (BOC), which is overseeing the project, said it could now tender the project this month in a parallel process with the aim of completing a first phase by 2022.

“We have this one approach but we can have another approach as well,” Abdul Mahdi Al-Ameedi, head of the Iraqi oil ministry’s licensing and contracts office, told Reuters.

Iraq chose Exxon to coordinate the initial studies of the CSSP in 2010. At the time, Baghdad aimed to raise its oil production capacity to 12 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2018, rivalling Saudi Arabia. That target has been missed and been cut to 6.5 million bpd by 2022 from around 5 million bpd now.

Negotiations with Exxon fell through in 2012 due to red tape and cost disputes. In 2015, the company re-entered talks with the oil ministry, this time in partnership with China’s CNPC and with the CSSP folded into a much bigger development project known as the Integrated South Project. 

CNPC did not reply to a request for comment.

For Iraq, going down the non-Exxon route raises two major concerns: How to integrate the project between the water treatment facility and the oilfields and how to finance the project, Thom said.

Two Iraqi oil sources told Reuters that taking the non-Exxon path would raise financing concerns for Iraq.

Projected costs of the scheme have not been disclosed, but engineering studies have put the cost of treating 12.5 million bpd of seawater transported to six oilfields at $12 billion.

The capacity has been revised downwards, with the first phase set to have a 5 million bpd of water, and in the second phase an additional 2.5 million bpd of water will be added for additional fields.