Upping the stakes in a growing corporate showdown, Samsung filed patent infringement lawsuits against Apple in Tokyo, Seoul, and Germany today. This comes less than a week after Apple filed its own suit against the Korean electronics mogul in the US District Court of Northern California, alleging that Samsung violated the iPhone and iPad products’ trademarks and patents by copying design, look, user interface, and packaging. The Samsung lawsuits don’t respond to the Apple suits and are instead claiming that Apple violated patents covering cellphone transmission technologies.
Samsung filed suits in the Seoul Central District Court in Korea citing five patent infringements, in Mannheim, Germany citing three patent infringements, and in a Tokyo court citing two patent infringements. A company spokesperson reportedly told The Wall Street Journal that the international suits accuse Apple of infringing on patents that Samsung holds for 3G technology used for reducing data transmission errors, transmission optimization technology and reduction of power usage during data transmission, and technology for tethering a mobile phone to a PC that allows the PC to utilize the phone’s wireless data connection. The company issued a statement regarding the lawsuits today, saying,
“Samsung is responding actively to the legal action taken against us in order to protect our intellectual property and to ensure our continued innovation and growth in the mobile communications business.”
This legal action is of course referring to Apple’s lawsuit earlier this week, which included a side-by-side comparison of the iPhone 3GS and the Galaxy S i9000 to illustrate its argument that the Korean company had copied the look and feel of their products. Included in their list of patent infringing products were: the Samsung Captivate, Galaxy S 4G, Epic 4G, Acclaim, Gem, Continuum, Indulge, Nexus S, Showcase, Transform, Vibrant, Intercept, Mesmerize, and Fascinate smart phones, as well as the Galaxy Tab tablet.
“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 intellectual property rights…The copying is so pervasive that the Samsung Galaxy products appear to be actual Apple products.”
According to South Korean media, Samsung’s chairman Lee Kun-hee told reporters, “When a nail sticks out, [people] try to pound it down,” with the implication being that the lawsuit is an attempt to restrain and subdue Samsung as its growing rival in this market.
It is important to keep in mind that Apple is Samsung’s second biggest client after Sony according to 2010 estimates, as they rely on the Korean company to supply chips for their popular products, such as the A4 chips found in the iPhone 4 and the A5 chips in the iPad 2. This close-knit relationship was referenced by Steve Jobs’ stand-in Tim Cook when he said during a conference call Wednesday that,
“We are Samsung’s largest customer, and Samsung is a very valued component supplier to us, and I expect the strong relationship to continue. Separately from this, we felt the mobile communication division of Samsung had crossed the line.”
Despite Cook’s assertion that the company’s only problem was with the mobile communication division, this new wave of lawsuits shows that Samsung as a whole, and not just the mobile communication division, is responding to Apple’s legal attack. Plus, Samsung is also staging this proverbial smack-down at the international level, drawing in the public eye even more. While it is unlikely that any serious business ties will be irrevocably damaged by this little copycat dispute considering just how much money Samsung and Apple make off one another, it will most certainly be interesting to watch these two electronics giants duke it out for the next few months.