Legal shots are being fired across the globe as technology giants Samsung and Apple battle it out for legal rights over their must-have gadgets.
To describe the relationship between Samsung and Apple as tricky is merely the tip of the iceberg. Although they appear to be in a drawn-out dispute over numerous alleged intellectual property and patent violations, the two have enjoyed a successful business partnership, with Samsung providing components for most of Apple’s handheld products. In fact, in February 2011, Samsung signed a contract for over $7 billion to provide components, including flash memory, for Apple products, such as the iPad 3, which supports an A5X processor.
The first shot in this escalating battle occurred in April last year, when Apple filed a suit in the US alleging that multiple Samsung devices were infringing on Apple’s Intellectual property. In the initial lawsuit, Apple identified 16 violations to defend this statement, centring on both the physical and software design of tablets, with some claims as vague as comparing the “a rectangular product shape with all four corners uniformly rounded” and “the front surface … dominated by a screen surface with black borders” of both tablets, and other, more specific infringements such as the “cantilevered push button having multiple contacts and fulcrums”.
Samsung quickly responded by taking the fight worldwide. Within a week, they had launched suits in Japan, Germany and South Korea, with Samsung claiming that the iPhone and iPad were encroaching on selected Samsung wireless communication patents that allow the devices to handle calls and data transfer simultaneously while reducing interference between devices. Apple followed this up with counter suits, most notably receiving an injunction against the release of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia in October 2011 that was overturned soon afterwards.
In February of 2012, Apple decided to launch yet another suit against Samsung’s devices, this time citing four violations:
- The Slide to unlock feature
- Searching multiple sources of information at once
- Detecting phone numbers in emails so you can just tap the number to call someone
- A built-in spell-check that suggests alternatives when you misspell something
During the last month, Apple has gained successive victories in the patent battle in the US – starting with a pre-trial sales ban on the Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, which was quickly followed by a similar pre-trial sales ban on the Galaxy Nexus phone that was enforced when Apple posted a $96million bond to cover Samsung’s losses from the bans if Apple were to lose the case. Samsung, however, has been able to convince the US court to temporarily lift the sales ban on its Nexus smartphone and the search feature that was being disputed has been quietly removed from other smartphones such as the Galaxy S III. Samsung also emerged triumphant in the UK as British judge Colin Birss ruled that “[Samsung tablets] do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design … they are not as cool.”