Apple Sues Samsung Over Similarities in Mobile Products

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The smartphone patent wars have heated up with Apple's patent infringement suit against Samsung, which claims Samsung's Galaxy line of phones and tablets borrows too much from the Apple iPhone and other products.

The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and first reported by the Wall Street Journal, alleges that Samsung infringes on a number of Apple patents for technology and "trade dress" of its mobile product line.

In exhibits attached to court documents, Apple displays photos of Samsung's thin, black, glossy, rectilinear-with-rounded-corners mobile devices displaying lots of colorful icons, next to photos of its own thin, black, glossy, rectilinear-with-rounded-corners mobile phone and colorful icons.

That's the problem with making insanely great stuff. Everybody else wants to be insanely great too--even companies like Samsung, which are both Apple's competitor and a supplier of microchips for the iPad and other devices. In fact, we reported last year that Samsung intended to use the same chips Apple used in its iPhone and iPad for its own Galaxy product line.

Applie iPad, left, and Samsung Galaxy Tab
The Cupertino company claims in the suit that Samsung's earlier device and interface designs were entirely different. According to the pleadings, "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."

Our Jared Newman noted back in March that Samsung was taking a second look at the Galaxy tablet line in the wake of the iPad's success. "It's clear that [Samsung does] not intend to let Apple run away with the category," CCS Insight analyst John Jackson told Reuters.

Apple suffered a setback today in a similar case against HTC and Nokia, Bloomberg reports. The U.S. International Trade Commission recommended to an administrative law judge that Apple's request be denied to ban imports of HTC's Android phones. The judge's ruling is expected on Aug. 5.

Apple says HTC's Android phones, and some of Nokia's devices, infringe five of its patents, according to the Bloomberg story. "HTC is a smartphone innovator and pioneer in the smartphone sphere--they were there long before Apple," lawyer Robert Van Nest said. "The fundamental differences from the Apple patents represent choices made by HTC and Google."

HTC has made patent claims of its own against Apple. A different complaint by Apple against Nokia will be decided by late June. An attorney for the Finnish phonemaker says the patents in question are outdated and were "dredged up" by Apple after Ericsson and Nokia approached Apple for royalties.

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