Samsung turns aggressor in Apple spat

Samsung is considering legal action to block the sale of Apple's iPhone 5. Will this squabble never end?

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 07 Oct 2011
It seems that Samsung has found a way to challenge Apple for publicity. Its Silicon Valley rival may have an incredibly powerful PR machine, but by positioning itself as its principle enemy Samsung is generating an enviable amount of column inches too. Now after a long year of back-and-forth, the South Korean company is once again aiming its arrows in Apple’s direction. Call it the Asian William Tell.

The latest instalment in the on-going battle has Samsung mulling an injunction in Europe and Korea against Apple’s new iPhone (number five, which unlike the equivalent in the Police Acadmeny series, 1985’s Assignment: Miami Beach, should represent a welcome improvement on its predecessor). It’s due out in October, and is rumoured to feature a faster processor and improved camera. According to South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper. Samsung’s argument is that the iPhone 5 will use technology that violates Samsung’s patents.

This spat has all the drama of a long-running soap. The two groups are locked in about 20 legal disputes over patents in nine countries, including the US, Australia, South Korea, Japan and the UK. First, in April, Apple sued Samsung in the US, claiming that its products had been ‘slavishly’ copied by its rival. Samsung counter-sued almost immediately. Then Apple briefly obtained a brief Europe-wide injunction, and a longer lasting German injunction, against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, a tablet computer that Apple claimed had copied elements of its iPad. Samsung then had to delay its Australian launch last month.

The interesting thing here is the shift in status. Apple is actually one of Samsung’s top customers, which has had a clear effect on the latter's ability to really come out fighting. Now things look set to turn uglier on the part of the Koreans, with Samsung telling the FT that it’s ‘preparing aggressive legal suits against Apple, shifting away from our defensive strategy’. That’s corporate speak for ‘put up your dukes’.

The feeling is that there’s a good chance of Samsung achieving a temporary sales ban, given that Samsung’s wireless technology is crucial to Apple’s system. Some circles are seeing it as Samsung standing up to a bully. Indeed, could Apple be about to learn a valuable lesson? That people in high-tech houses shouldn’t go round pulling the plug on others?

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