Apple, Samsung Gearing Up for Major Smartphone, Tablet Patent Fight

With its lawsuit against HTC and Nokia underway, Apple is turning its sights to Samsung, claiming the Galaxy tablet and smartphones violate its patents.

With Apple's patent-infringement case against HTC underway in an International Trade Commission (ITC) court, the iPhone maker has filed a new legal claim against smartphone and tablet rival Samsung, the Wall Street Journal reported April 18.

In a 38-page suit filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, Apple alleges that the look, packaging and user interfaces of Samsung's smartphones and tablets too closely copy the Apple iPhone and iPad.

"Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smartphone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple's technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products," Apple claims in the lawsuit, according to the Journal.

Samsung, however, is not taking Apple's accusations lightly. In a statement, Samsung claims its planning to take "counter-action" against Apple, according to the AFP news services.

"Samsung will respond actively to this legal action taken against us through appropriate legal measures to protect our intellectual property," according to Samsung's April 19 statement.

Apple has been a leader in the smartphone and tablet markets, setting the bar in the former and outright establishing the latter. With sales rising and revenues skyrocketing-Strategy Analytics expects tablet revenue alone to reach $49 billion by 2015-Apple is lashing out against rivals it believes are finding success on its coattails.

Apple currently has patent-infringement suits filed against smartphone giants Nokia, HTC and Motorola, among others.

Complicating the lawsuit against Samsung is that the company is additionally a parts manufacturer, and Apple is one of its major customers.

According to regulatory filings, 4 percent of Samsung's 2010 revenue-or approximately $6 billion-came from Apple, which purchases microchips and memory chips from the South Korean company, the Journal reported. According to an April 15 report from tech site AnandTech, some Apple MacBook Air models have recently been found to be running solid-state drives (SSDs) from Samsung rather than the Toshiba SSDs that the super-lightweight notebooks debuted with. One possibility is that Apple made the switch following the recent disasters in Japan, where Toshiba and other manufacturers have suffered damages to their factories or faced logistical woes getting materials in and out of the country.

Samsung says it has been developing its own core technologies and intellectual property portfolio, according to the AFP report, which added that Korea's Yonhap news agency has cited an unidentified Samsung official as saying: "Apple is one of our key buyers of semiconductors and display panels. However, we have no choice but to respond strongly this time."

The form factor of Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablet-as is the case with many other iPad competitors-appears to vary only slightly from Apple's iPad and iPad 2. But the lawsuit, says the Journal, points to Samsung mimicking Apple in also unnecessary ways, such as by depicting its products' photo library with a sunflower logo, as Apple does.

The suit against Samsung comes just as the company is preparing to this month launch the Galaxy S II, the follow-up to its popular smartphone available from a number of U.S. carriers. The device runs the Android 2.3 operating system and features a 4.3-inch WVGA Super AMOLED-Plus (active-matrix organic LED-plus) touch display, a 1.2GHz processor, 8-megapixel and 2-megapixel cameras, and Samsung's 3D TouchWiz user interface.