Independent Mobile Phone Repair Threatened by Samsung Patent Suit

Samsung's attempt to protect its IP will instead force third-party mobile phone repair shops out of business and impose higher costs on consumers.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

March 7, 2023

4 Min Read
Mobile phone repair brokendisplay.jpg
Independent mobile phone repair shops worry that a Samsung patent suit could prevent them from importing and selling replacement OLED phone screens.Antonio Guillem/Getty Images

Broken display screens are among the most common repairs for mobile phones, and a vast network of third-party mobile phone repair shops have arisen in the U.S. over the years to replace these screens and make other repairs, at lower cost to consumers than through the original phone manufacturer. But a recent patent suit filed by Samsung threatens could potentially put many of these independent shops out of business by preventing the import of replacement mobile phone screens from offshore regions, notably China.

The Samsung suit, filed at the beginning of this year, relates to the patents related to the IP behind its active-matrix OLED screens. The Korean electronics giant is suing to have the International Trade Commission (ITC) disallow importing non-Samsung OLED phone screens into the U.S., on the premise that these screens infringe upon Samsung’s OLED patents.

Those screens are purchased by third-party mobile phone repair shops through distributors who buy them from Chinese companies. The independent shops have no way of knowing which of these screens violate Samsung’s patents, and they are now up in arms over potential losses to their business should Samsung prevail in the lawsuit.

Mobile Phone Repair Shops Worried

“You would need a microscope to distinguish between a screen that infringes on Samsung’s patent and one that does not,” said Shay Kripalani, CEO of Injured Gadgets, one of the independent repair companies affected by the patent suit. Kripialani told Design News in an interview last month that because customs officials would have neither the means nor the know-how to individually examine each batch of screens at the point of entry, they would likely ban non-Samsung mobile phone screens from entering the U.S. altogether.

Related:Right-to-Repair Movement for Electronics Off to Shaky Start

“We would not want to deal with our screens being seized,” Kripialani said.

For Injured Gadgets and other independent mobile phone repair shops, the inability to replace mobile phone screens would mean losing a substantial portion of their revenue. The ban would also be a major defeat for the right-to-repair movement, where states such as New York have passed laws mandating that OEMs give independent repair shops and consumers access to parts and know-how to repair consumer electronics products.

The Real Loser: Consumers

The real loser in any setbacks for the right-to-repair movement is the consumer. Without an independent mobile phone repair shop to perform minor repairs, consumers would only two choices to repair their phones: pay Samsung top dollar for an OEM-grade phone screen or just shell out for a new smartphone. 

Related:Samsung Doing an About Face on Right to Repair?

Kripialani and others point out that consumers are not going to shell out hundreds of dollars to buy a replacement screen from the original phone manufacturer when the phone itself is now only worth a fraction of its original price. By contrast, an independent mobile phone repair shop could charge well under $100 for a replacement phone screen.

Keeping BOE and Apple Out

Samsung’s patent suit might not be so much an action to hurt independent shops but rather an indirect way to keep the company’s main rival in the phone business, Apple, at bay in the ultra-competitive smartphone market, according to YouTube video poster Louis Rossmann, who frequently posts on consumer electronics issues.

Rossmann was outraged when learning about Samsung’s patent suit a few months ago. in a second video posted in February, Rossmann detailed another angle as to why Samsung has filed the patent suit.

Rossmann asserts that Samsung is trying to keep BOE Displays, a Chinese display supplier, from importing its displays into the U.S. While Samsung remains the largest supplier of OLED screens for Apple’s smartphones, BOE has been making inroads. Despite allegations of poor quality, BOE remains a threat to win future Apple iPhone display orders. Rumors have surfaced in recent weeks that Apple was considering having BOE supply OLED screens for Apple’s upcoming iPhone 15 and 15 Plus smartphones.

Instead of seeking royalties for the use of its patent, Samsung is trying to keep BOE from gaining any market momentum by using the legal system to enforce its patent IP. This would hurt Apple as it cannot now import phones with BOE-sourced OLED screens into the U.S. But the patent suit also extends to other Chinese-sourced OLED screens, which stands to harm independent mobile phone repair shops who import these displays.

Fighting Samsung in Court

Injured Gadgets has banded together with several other third-party mobile phone repair vendors to fight Samsung’s lawsuit. So far, nine vendors have joined Injured Gadgets and have launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay the legal fees in the lawsuit.

In his video, Rossmann, while applauding the efforts of Injured Gadgets and other mobile phone repair shops, believes they will be unable to raise sufficient funds to battle Samsung in court. He believes only a huge public outcry that turns people against Samsung could cause the global electronics giant to back down from its suit and avoid destroying its public image.


Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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