Patent disputes spur Samsung's lobbying on smartphones
An Apple iPhone with it's competitor, a Samsung Galaxy. Photo: Reuters
Samsung has doubled mobile phone sales in the US since 2008. As the company faces anti-dumping measures and a protracted court battle with Apple, its US lobbying bill is growing even faster.
Samsung boosted spending on lobbyists to $US900,000 last year from $US150,000 in 2011 as it tries to influence the government on issues ranging from intellectual-property infringement to telecommunications infrastructure, regulatory filings show.
The company also hired Sony veteran Joel Wiginton to run a new government-relations office in Washington.
The higher spending comes as the South Korean company is embroiled in patent disputes with Apple on four continents as the two struggle for dominance in an industry expected to double to $US847 billion in sales by 2016. In a US lawsuit, Apple was initially awarded $1 billion in damages after a jury decided Samsung copied the iPhone maker's designs for mobile devices.
''Samsung is being sued left and right,'' said R. Polk Wagner, a professor of intellectual-property law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. ''A major component of their business is smartphones, and this is becoming a very litigious area.''
Last year's lobbying expenditure was the biggest for Samsung in a single year, according to a US government database of lobbying disclosure filings dating to 1999. The previous high was $US370,000 in 2008.
In a statement, Samsung said the expanded effort was ''a prudent step as part of day-to-day business operations, our growing presence outside of our headquarters country, and our commitment to transparency''. The company declined to comment further on its lobbying expenditure.
The greater focus on lobbying by technology companies reflects the growing importance of US laws and regulations to the industry as Congress considers issues from patents to internet privacy to copyright infringement, said Mark Lemley, who teaches patent law at Stanford Law School in California.
''It's just an increasingly important part of their business,'' he said. ''What happens in Washington can significantly affect the lives of technology companies, and they can't ignore it.''
The bulk of Samsung's US lobbying money last year, $US760,000, went to the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, according to the filings.
Samsung is involved in dozens of legal disputes with Apple worldwide as the two biggest smartphone makers seek to use patents to curb each other's growth or force changes in the other's products. Apple sold 27.4 million iPhone 5s in the quarter ended December 31, and Samsung sold 15.4 million Galaxy S3 models, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.
Last August, Apple won the verdict against Samsung from a federal court in San Jose, California. Apple also sought to ban sales of ''infringing'' Samsung devices, a request that the judge rejected. Samsung has denied copying Apple devices, and both companies have filed appeals. Samsung and Ericsson also have lodged patent-infringement complaints against each other.