Apple has initiated proceedings against Samsung, supplier of components that go into many Apple products including iOS devices, claiming that the company has infringed on intellectual property owned by Apple.
Apple has said that some of Samsung's technology infringes on intellectual property used in products such as the iPad (pictured right, next to the Samsung Galaxy Tab). Photo credit: Donald Bell/CNET News
The lawsuit, filed by Apple in the Northern District of California on Friday, alleges that Samsung products such as the Galaxy S 4G, Epic 4G and Nexus S smartphones infringe on its intellectual property. It also included the Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet in the suit.
"It's no coincidence that Samsung's latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging," a spokesman for Apple said in a statement. "This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."
However, Samsung said it is investment in research and development, rather than imitation, that drives its business
"Samsung's development of core technologies and strengthening our intellectual property portfolio are keys to our continued success," a spokeswoman for Samsung said in a statement. "Samsung will respond actively to this legal action taken against us through appropriate legal measures to protect our intellectual property."
The filing is the latest in a line of challenges initiated by Apple against makers of Android-based devices that the company claims infringe on iPhone-related patents. Previous targets include HTC and Motorola.
"By going against Samsung, Apple clearly demonstrates its absolute determination to fight 'anything Android'," Florian Mueller, founder of the NoSoftwarePatents campaign, wrote on his blog. "It looks like Steve Jobs would even be prepared to sue a member of his family should any of his kin decide to build Android-based devices."
However, Mueller also pointed out that "considering how much Apple's prospects depend on fending off the Android threat, one can argue that Apple would have to assert its intellectual property rights even more aggressively from a shareholder-value perspective".
Gartner mobile analyst Carolina Milanesi told ZDNet UK the lawsuit was unlikely to be about preventing competition for Apple's products. "It is not as if sales stop while the courts make a decision nor that consumers care about what is going on in court," she said. "It is about making sure your interests are protected, and certainly your differentiating edge."
The two companies have a long history of co-operation, including Apple investing $100m in Samsung in 1999 to help boost production of flat-panel LCDs in 1999. According to Milanesi, it is unlikely that Apple's action will have any significant impact on future deals between the two.
"Of course the lawsuit might impact the relationship, but this is about business and earning money so I am sure things will be considered carefully before getting rid of a key customer," she said.