Apple sues Samsung for 'copying' smartphones, tablets

In what could prove to be a landmark intellectual property case, Apple has sued Samsung for allegedly copying intellectual property in making its own products like smartphones and tablet computers.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab stacked on top of Apple's first-generation iPad.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab stacked on top of Apple's first-generation iPad. Donald Bell/CNET

Apple has filed a lawsuit against Samsung, alleging that the consumer electronics giant has violated Apple's intellectual property in the design of its mobile devices.

The suit, which was filed last week and picked up on by The Wall Street Journal, takes aim specifically at the Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets, as well as other Samsung smartphones, for "copying" Apple's user interface and design features. In it, Apple--the maker of the trend-setting iPhone and iPad--claims Samsung is infringing on its patents and is practicing unfair competition.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though an Apple representative told AllThingsD: "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," adding that "this kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."

In a statement e-mailed to CNET, a Samsung representative said this: "Samsung's development of core technologies and strengthening our intellectual property portfolio are keys to our continued success. Samsung will respond actively to this legal action taken against us through appropriate legal measures to protect our intellectual property."

The lawsuit is of special interest given the relationship between the two companies. Samsung is the supplier of components in a handful of Apple devices, including part of Apple's A4 and A5 processors, which can be found in the company's iOS devices as well on the Apple TV product. Findings by AnandTech from earlier this morning also suggest that Apple has moved away from Toshiba to Samsung as the provider for solid-state storage in its MacBook Air notebooks.

Apple invested $100 million in Samsung back in 1999 to help boost the company's production of flat-panel displays. Even so, the two companies have traded blows at one another publicly. In 2005 Samsung promised to knock Apple from its top spot with the iPod, launching a massive ad campaign the following year. More recently, during Apple's iPad 2 unveiling, Apple CEO Steve Jobs knocked Samsung's tablet efforts, misquoting Samsung vice president Lee Young-hee as saying that sales of the company's 7-inch Galaxy Tab tablet had been "small."

Apple has been a large customer of Samsung's over the years, working with the company to buying up large orders of flash memory for use in devices like the iPhone. In February the two companies were said to be working on a contract agreement with one another worth $7.8 billion, yielding parts like processors, flash memory, and LCD panels for future devices.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. with comment from Samsung.

 

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