Samsung Sues Apple on Patents

SEOUL—Samsung Electronics Co. said Friday it filed patent infringement lawsuits against Apple Inc. in Seoul, Tokyo and Germany, in apparent response to Apple's suit against it over trademark issues in the U.S. earlier this week.

The Samsung lawsuits don't directly respond to the Apple suit. Instead, they accuse Apple of violating patents covering cellphone transmission technologies.

The legal skirmish is one of a dozen or so prominent cases that have emerged in recent months over the rapidly growing smartphone market.

But the Apple-Samsung battle stands out because, while competing in the mobile-phone business, the two companies are close business partners, with Apple as one of the biggest buyers of chips, screens and other components that Samsung manufactures.

"Samsung is responding actively to the legal action taken against us in order to protect our intellectual property and to ensure our continued innovation and growth in the mobile communications business," the company said in a statement.

Samsung Electronics said it filed patent infringement lawsuits against Apple in Seoul, Tokyo and Germany, in apparent response to Apple's suit against it over trademark issues in the U.S. earlier this week. Marcelo Prince reports on digits.

A company spokesman said Samsung's suits allege that Apple infringed on patents that the South Korean company holds for transmission optimization and reduction of power usage during data transmission, 3G technology for reducing data-transmission errors and a method of tethering a mobile phone to a PC to enable the PC to utilize the phone's wireless data connection.

Apple's lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in the U.S., alleged that Samsung copied the look, product design, packaging and user interface of its iPhone and iPad products, violating its patents and trademarks. The lawsuit showed side-by-side comparisons of the Apple iPhone 3GS model, released in June 2009, and the Galaxy S i9000 model, released in March 2010.

Samsung swiftly rejected the lawsuit, which resurrected the copycat image that the company, now the world's largest electronics producer by revenue, thought it had overcome years ago.

Though its Galaxy models came three years after the original iPhone, Samsung has since moved much more quickly to keep up with Apple's innovations in tablet computing, rolling out its Galaxy Tab just seven months after Apple's iPad.

Samsung's chairman, Lee Kun-hee, in a rare visit to the company's headquarters on Thursday, indirectly characterized Apple's lawsuit as an attempt to restrain Samsung. "When a nail sticks out, [people] try to pound it down," Mr. Lee said to reporters he encountered in the lobby, according to South Korean news accounts.

Apple executives addressed the strain between the two companies reply to an analyst's question during a conference call on Wednesday.

"We are Samsung's largest customer, and Samsung is a very valued component supplier to us, and I expect the strong relationship will continue," Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, said on the call. "Separately from this, we felt the mobile communication division of Samsung had crossed the line, and after trying for some time to work the issue, we decided we needed to rely on the courts."

Apple was Samsung's second-largest customer in 2010, trailing Sony Corp. by a small margin, according to Samsung's recently-published annual report. But judging from Apple's fast sales growth in the latest quarter, Apple may now be Samsung's largest customer.@online.wsj


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