…A cat fight really.
“Apple Inc. sued rival Samsung Electronics Co., claiming its Galaxy cellphones and tablet “slavishly” copied Apple’s iPhone and iPad, in another sign of the escalating intellectual-property tensions in the mobile market.
Apple’s lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, alleges that Samsung copied the look, product design, packaging and user interface of its products, violating its patents and trademarks.
“Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple’s technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products,” Apple said in its 38-page suit. The lawsuit shows side-by-side comparisons of the Apple iPhone 3GS model, released in June 2009, and the Galaxy S i9000 model, released in March 2010.
Apple also showed photos and images that pointed out similarities in the two companies’ packaging and icons for software applications such as music, phone, texting, and contacts.
“This kind of blatant copying is wrong,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement.
A Samsung spokesman said the company will “actively” respond to the lawsuit. “Samsung’s development of core technologies and strengthening our intellectual property portfolio are keys to our continued success,” the spokesman said.
The lawsuit is the latest legal swipe in the competitive smartphone and tablet markets, showing how high the stakes have become.
Apple’s iPhone dominated smartphones for several years, but is being overtaken in unit sales by rivals’ phones, like the Samsung devices named in the suit, that run on Google Inc.’s Android operating system.
Research firm IDC expects the smartphone market to grow more than 49% in 2011 from 303.4 million units in 2010. In tablets, Apple is expected to dominate the market through 2015 according to Gartner Inc., but is facing increasing competition from other companies.
Apple is also embroiled in legal battles with companies such as HTC Corp., Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Nokia Corp. and Eastman Kodak Co. over products such as smartphones and software, some of whom it has sued and some of whom it has been sued by.
Apple is also in a legal dispute with Microsoft Corp., which is challenging Apple’s trademark for the term “app store.”
“It’s another arrow in their [Apple’s] quiver to slow down their closest competitor,” said Edward Snyder, an analyst for Charter Equity Research in San Francisco, referring to the suit against Samsung. Mr. Snyder said he expected the two companies to eventually settle.
The lawsuit is likely to further complicate the relationship between the two consumer electronics giants. Samsung makes microchips that are used in some Apple products as well as memory chips used in the MacBook Pro computer line. But it is also becoming a strong competitor in mobile devices.
Apple accounted for 4% of Samsung’s 2010 revenue of 154.6 trillion won ($142 billion), according to regulatory filings in South Korea. Using current exchange rates, that meant Apple spent about $6 billion at Samsung last year, second only to Sony Corp., which buys chips and liquid crystal displays from Samsung.”
Associated PressApple alleges Samsung’s Galaxy line, including the tablet shown above, violated its patents and trademarks.
Intellectual property experts said the suit is reminiscent of the legal battles between Apple, Microsoft and Xerox Corp. over the user interface and design of personal computers. “It’s deja vu all over again,” said Dan Burk, a professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law.
But while those battles were largely over copyright, this time the battles are over trademark and patents. Mr. Burk said the challenge for Apple in its trademark arguments will be to override defendants’ possible defense that features were similar because of functional necessity. In its patent claims, there will likely be a question of the validity of the patents themselves, he said.
For Samsung, the Apple lawsuit revives a copycat charge it has often heard from other electronics firms during its rise over the last two decades. Samsung in recent years has strived to develop in-house design capabilities and has produced distinctive TVs and cellphones.”