Apple adds Samsung to its Android lawsuits
Files complaints citing smartphone and tablet appearance, icons and user gestures
Published: 19 April, 2011
Samsung is the latest iPhone challenger to feel the heat of Apple's legal department. Apple has filed suit against the Korean giant alleging that its Galaxy handsets and tablets infringe iPhone/iPad patents and their trademarked appearance.
In targeting the rise of Android, Apple is picking off the vendors whose products are eating most seriously into its installed base and the mystique of its mobile platform. Samsung joins HTC and Motorola, though the iPhone maker is yet to attack Google itself. Apple also has a complex series of tit-for-tat lawsuits ongoing with Nokia, covering a wide range of patents.
The actions indicate Apple's increasing sense of vulnerability and its determination to slow down the progress of Android, and perhaps stop Nokia in its smartphone tracks altogether. Each lawsuit focuses on slightly different areas, with the Samsung actions concentrating on patents that relate to the use of hand gestures on the touchscreens. They also allege copying of the colors and rectangular shape of the Apple products. The complaint, filed on April 15 in federal court in Oakland, California, says the Galaxy products were deliberately designed to copy Apple's gadgets.
Specifically, it cites seven patents related to the way the devices understand gestures, including selecting, scrolling, pinching and zooming, plus three patents on the design, including the flat black face. Samsung also is accused of copying onscreen icons and trademarks for certain icons, including green boxes with phones or a sunflower for photos. Apple also claims the packaging is copied.
"Instead of pursuing independent product development, Samsung has chosen to slavishly copy Apple's innovative technology, distinctive user interfaces, and elegant and distinctive product and packaging design, in violation of Apple's valuable intellectual property rights," the complaint reads.
This legal action points to an increasingly fractious relationship between Apple and Samsung and is complicated by the fact that the former buys so many products from various parts of the Samsung empire - some touchscreens, though its main partner is LG; memory chips; and input on its apps processor. Apple used to buy the Samsung processor but now has its own A4 and A5 chips. These feature heavy - but declining - design input from the Korean firm and are made in its foundry, though there are rumors that Apple will move at least some manufacturing to TSMC in Taiwan.
"What's of concern is that you can see the strategic relationship between Samsung and Apple getting worse of late," Kim Young Chan, an analyst at Shinhan Investment in Korea told Bloomberg. "As Samsung pushes ahead with its handset and tablet business, Apple is trying to keep Samsung in check."
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