It took less than a week for Samung to fire back at Apple with a patent-infringement lawsuit of its own. On April 22, Samsung Electronics filed lawsuits against Apple in South Korea, Japan and Germany, related to data transmission and the technology necessary to wirelessly connect a mobile phone and a user’s computer, according to a number of reports.
The Samsung lawsuit alleges that Apple violated Samsung’s patents “in the production of the iPhone and iPad,” according to MarketWatch, which cited the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Samsung’s Galaxy S line of smartphones and Galaxy Tab tablets-clear competitors to Apple’s iPhone and iPad-were likewise triggers to the lawsuit that Apple filed against Samsung April 15.
“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 an April 18 report from the Wall Street Journal.
It added that Samsung “slavishly” copied design details, down to details as small as using, as Apple has, a sunflower as the icon for a device’s photo gallery.
Samsung responded days later, saying it would take “appropriate legal measures to protect our intellectual property”-a promise it has apparently made good on.
The lawsuits are additionally problematic as Samsung and Apple are not only rivals but business partners, with Samsung supplying important components for several Apple devices. According to the Financial Times, Samsung officials have said that Samsung’s success in the smartphone and tablet markets has strained the companies’ relationship.
ABI Research reported April 20 that Apple commanded 85 percent of the tablet market in 2010. Archos, the third-largest market share holder-a detail emphasizing the mounting number of competitors currently filling the space – held only a 2 percent share. Samsung, meanwhile, managed to secure the No. 2 position, with 8 percent of the global market share.
There’s also a fear, in working so closely with a competitor, that company secrets might be lifted.
“While Samsung supplies many chips more cheaply to Apple than to its own mobile division,” the FT report added, “Apple fears its semiconductor orders could give Samsung excessive insight into its plans.”
Analysts have suggested that lawsuits aren’t so much serious combat as two well-equipped combatants firing shots in the air to show the other it means business.
During Apple’s April 20 earnings call, comments from COO Tim Cook seemed to confirm as much.
“I expect a strong relationship will continue,” Cook told analysts and media on the call. Nonetheless, “we felt the mobile division of Samsung had crossed the line … after trying for some time to work the issue, we decided to rely on the courts.”
Apple has also filed patent-infringement lawsuits against smartphone rivals HTC and Nokia, proceedings for which recently began in an International Trade Commission court. Throwing a bit of a wrench in the works for Apple, however, an initial, non-binding report from ITC staff, acting as a third party in the suit, found that HTC and Nokia didn’t violate Apple’s iPhone patents.
With Android-running smartphones and tablets, including those from HTC, Samsung and Motorola, gradually eating into Apple’s market share, Apple has also filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Motorola. The suit names patents related to Apple’s Multi-Touch technology as well as other touch-screen-related technologies.