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Apple v. Samsung: 50 suits, 10 countries -- and counting

One year ago this month the two companies locked horns over patents, and their legal fight has since extended around the globe. It will apparently even bring the two CEOs face-to-face in May.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read

With patent litigation fast turning into the tech industry's favorite pastime, the yearlong legal battle between Apple and Samsung that began last April now extends to more than 10 countries around the world and at least 50 initial filings. Incredible.

Patent expert Florian Mueller, who, thankfully, tracks this stuff closely so the rest of us don't have to risk having our brains explode, has done his usual first-rate job compiling a list sorting out the venues of this "massively escalated, planet-spanning dispute." Amazingly, he noted, the number of legal filings might even climb higher. As Mueller notes in his latest post:

After an initial filing, lawsuits can be consolidated (which effectively happened to the first two lawsuits the parties filed against each other in California) or, which happened far more frequently, split up into multiple lawsuits by the courts. For example, German courts usually look at only one patent per litigation, and sometimes assign more than one case number per patent if there's a delay with serving the complaint on one of two or more defendants. Also, these parties tend to appeal each and every decision, and the list below doesn't contain cases before appeals courts.

Of course, there's always the possibility that these two might be able to work out a deal. During a conference call last week to discuss the company's quarterly earnings, Apple CEO Tim Cook offered a general statement of his desire to end the litigation that has engulfed much of the wireless industry, without mentioning Samsung specifically.

"I would highly prefer to settle than to battle," he said. "But it's important that Apple not become the developer for the world. We need people to invent their own stuff."

Both Cook and his opposite number at Samsung, along with their top lawyers, are supposed to give settlement talks a shot in front of a judge in San Francisco on May 21 and 22.

This long-running legal confrontation began in April 2011 when Apple filed a lawsuit in California accusing Samsung of copying "the look and feel" of its iPad tablet and iPhone smartphone. "Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smartphone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple's technology, user interface, and innovative style in these infringing products," Apple complained.

Samsung quickly responded with a countersuit against Apple, taking the fight overseas to South Korea, Japan, and Germany.

Ever since, it's been a veritable full-time employment act for the lawyers.

Clarification:: We tweaked the earlier headline to correct the wording.