Apple escalates legal complaint over Samsung “copying” its products

by Phil Hornshaw

Apple seems pretty steamed over some of Samsung’s products. Well, a lot of Samsung products, actually. The company is so upset about what it calls “copying” on the part of the Korean electronics manufacturer that Apple has brought a large, 60-plus page patent complaint against Samsung that will be heard today.

Tech patent activist Florian Mueller has been following the case on his blog and posted an interesting, in-depth analysis of some recent changes Apple has made to its argument against the device-making rival. Apple (AAPL) claims Samsung (005930.KS) has been copying its products right down to the packaging since about 2007 with the initial iPhone, and Apple is considering seeking an injunction against Samsung for the release of a number of its upcoming products, including the newly redesigned Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 8.9. The 10.1 is on store shelves starting today; the 8.9 comes sometime later this summer.

When it comes to the Galaxy Tabs, Samsung hasn’t made any secret of the fact that it reworked the devices to compete specifically with the iPad 2. Samsung’s earlier versions of its tabs paled against the release of the iPad 2 in March in the company’s eyes, so it went back to the drawing board and came up with tabs that are thinner and lighter than the iPad 2, running on Google’s (GOOG) Android platform.

Both Apple and Samsung are trying to get a look at the other’s hand. Samsung, which is probably Apple’s largest provider of components, has requested in the court order that Apple show it the upcoming iPhone 5 and the iPad 3, even though neither of those products have been announced. Samsung claims it wants to avoid future allegations of copying by seeing what Apple is planning and moving away from it. Apple, on the other hand, is supposed to be receiving samples of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Galaxy Tab 8.9, the Galaxy S2 and the Infuse 4G today. Both sets of samples would go to the company’s outside council for evaluation, you know, so they can’t steal from each other.

There’s a lot to go through in Apple’s complaint against Samsung, which I won’t go too deeply into since Mueller does such a good job on his post. But it seems that the next step in this case (after the ruling on Samsung’s motion to get hold of Apple’s unannounced products), will likely be for Apple to countersue in similar cases with Samsung being argued in Japan, Korea and Germany. Samsung brought those suits to bear in response to Apple’s patent above patent claim (being argued in California), so it’ll be likely that Apple will come up with countersuits to argue there that could include even more patents.

In fact, as Mueller points out, this is likely just going to get worse: “A Samsung spokesman recently suggested that more escalation is possible. In my view it's not only possible but highly probable.”

Having tried the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and seen its many similarities to the iPad 2, I have to agree – Apple and Samsung will probably be at each other’s throats for a while.