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Summary:

Apple filed suit Friday against Samsung, claiming patent violations regarding the Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. Samsung has now released an official response to that suit, and it’s immediately apparent that the kid gloves are off right from the very beginning.

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Samsung has released a dramatic response to a patent infringement lawsuit Apple filed Friday against Samsung. The suit, which was filed with the U.S. District Court in Northern California, claimed patent violations regarding the Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. In the complaint, Apple argues Samsung’s Galaxy line of devices resemble Apple’s iPhone and iPad too closely to be a coincidence. But like a play, most of this back-and-forth is just for show while the real action happens behinds the scenes.

“Samsung will respond actively to this legal action taken against us through appropriate legal measures to protect our intellectual property,” was the official word from Samsung Tuesday according to the AFP. Samsung officials also have been quoted by Korea’s Yonhap news agency as suspecting that in fact, it’s Apple that violated Samsung’s patents. One Samsung official even brought up the cozy supplier relationship enjoyed between the companies, noting that “Apple is one of our key buyers of semiconductors and display panels. However, we have no choice but respond strongly this time.”

Even calling Apple “one of [Samsung's] key buyers” might be understating the case a little bit. Apple was the second-largest revenue source for Samsung in 2010, representing four percent of the firm’s total annual revenue of $142 billion. Recent reports have only indicated a deepening of the supply relationship between the two companies, thanks to a reported large-scale contract for touchscreens and the apparent addition of Samsung as a supplier for MacBook Air SSDs.

A rocky relationship between the two companies could have significant consequences for both going forward. Demand still outpaces supply for the iPad 2, for instance, and it’s still unclear whether the disaster in Japan will ultimately have had an effect on Apple’s ability to get products in the hands of consumers. If the supply relationship between Samsung and Apple becomes strained as a result of this lawsuit, it could eventually make it harder for Apple to source parts, and it could also significantly affect Samsung’s bottom line. And Apple has already been lining up some alternate supply relationships that could help it sidestep Samsung altogether, should the need arise.

Apple knows that Samsung is currently crucial to its ability to get product in stores, but because of the way patent law works, Apple basically had to sue Samsung to protect its intellectual property since Galaxy devices blatantly copy Apple’s designs. My colleague Kevin Tofel has noted that Samsung is clearly trying to mimic Apple’s successful branding strategy with Galaxy devices, and the similarities surely aren’t lost on customers. Basically, because of the way patent law is set up, Apple had to sue first and then can negotiate later in order to work out potential licensing deals with Samsung. Continuing to let things slide would have weakened its claims regarding held patents. Behind the scenes, the two companies are doubtless negotiating furiously over who will get paid what for various licenses — a fight occurring all over the smartphone word at this moment.

Apple’s timing with this suit is a good sign that Samsung is currently or is rapidly becoming the iPhone-maker’s biggest current competitor, but despite bold talk from both sides, it isn’t a showdown that will result in the survival of only one or the other. The relationship between the two companies may change as a result of these legal proceedings, but expect both the iPhone and the Galaxy brands to survive the clash.

  1. Yes these samsung phones look A LOT like iPhones, but have you ever thought that ALL TVs look alike? A 40″ Sony looks like a 40″ samsung, like a 40″ hitachi, like a 40″ (insert brand here). Speaking of, i hear rumors of an Apple TV set…..I hope it doesn’t look like a samsung.

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    1. perhaps you should shave that beard so you can see clearly.

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    2. The difference is that tv sets have always looked the same and don’t have critical patents on the way they look and the way they are packaged. Apple’s iPhone and iPad do. The law is the law. Samsung has no right to steal other companies intellectual property. They can copy unpatented products all they like.

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      1. Hey Idiothunter Apple uses Samsung parts to develop their technology so in theory its theres to start with :)

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  2. Scott Easterday Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    “In the complaint Apple argues that Samsung’s Galaxy line of devices resemble Apple’s iPhone and iPad too closely to be a coincidence.”

    This is why we shouldn’t have patents based on looks. It has to be a key technology that they develop, competition is a good thing.

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  3. I have both. Yes, I work hard for my money, I said it.
    I have to honestly say though that an iPod touch 4th generation is the way to go when it comes down to mobility and functionality.
    The tablet is nice, but it is really just a larger iPod with flash. Skyfire can solve that for iPods and iPads. But that is even a waste of time considering html5 is doing fine and will certainly be the choice in the future. Best for your money is the iPod 32 4th gen. touch. No debate for me there.

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  4. They are all going for minimalism because that’s what the customer wants. That pretty much means they are all going to end up in the same place. Isn’t the rule – “form follows function”?

    Ben is right about TVs. They are going for minimalism too. Just a screen with a black border as small as possible.

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  5. Great article, and I thank the editor for not jumping on the sensationalistic bandwagon that’s happening on other news sites.

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  6. TWiT Commander Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    …a fight occurring all over the smartphone word at this moment.…

    may be that fourth word from the end should be “world”.

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  7. Apple’s claims are completely without merit or basis.

    Samsung phones “look like” Apple phones?

    Apple’s iPhone “looked like” the LG Prada, which predated the iPhone.

    Apple claims it invented color touchscreen phones that browse the web and run apps. Palm, SonyEricsson, Nokia and a half-dozen other manufacturers who were building smartphones for 10 years prior to the first iPhone would disagree.

    Apple claims its touchscreen concepts and patents are “unique,” but all the ones in contention are established prior art.

    This lawsuit isn’t about Apple “protecting its innovations,” it’s about Apple using the power of the courts to claim public domain concepts as its own IP and shut down competitors who have been in the smartphone market for far longer than Apple itself (including Samsung, who was an established player in smartphones back when Apple was near liquidation in the 1990s).

    Enough of the coddling of Apple, please. Just because you guys didn’t know anything about smartphones prior to iPhone doesn’t mean that Apple somehow invented all the well-established concepts used in its products.

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    1. I am speechless. You are dead on IMO.

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  8. The reason Apple waited to file suit was because they needed to line up new suppliers of ram, screens and processor fabs. Now that that’s done Samsung gets the papers. Samsung has a lot to lose on this one. I wouldn’t want to lose my biggest buyer, Apple. Samsung does copy everything Apple and even if they get away with it they’ll lose billions when Apple buys parts from somewhere other than Samsung. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. That’s an understatement in Samsungs case. But maybe they don’t know that saying in Asia.

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    1. It could also be that Apple’s design patent for the iPhone only recently issued, if memory serves.

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    2. do u even know why Samsung is the largest supplier for Apple? It’s because they have the lowest pricing, not even close to the second-tier suppliers. With the earthquake in Japan, there is no way Apple could keep their current product prices without leaning more heavily on Samsung to keep supplying them with low priced high quality chips. Do some basic research before u babble like a monkey. “But maybe they don’t know that saying in Asia”? That statement alone shows your ignorance.

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  9. the problem with samsung’s suit is that samsung stopped innovating several years ago – it won’t win this one.

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    1. Samsung was #2 for patents in 2010. . . Apple wasn’t even in the top 10. WOW. . . do you all just believe the Apple hype endlessly?

      Samsung is the world’s largest hardware manufacturer. . . they have tons of patents and create a lot of different things you and I use all the time.

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    2. 1. pretty much all of apples products rely on samsung
      2. samsung has some of the biggest investments in technology development and is at the forefront of tech
      3. apple doesnt innovate it packages other ppls tech
      4. the loss of the apple account wont even dent samsung whereas apple will be set back

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  10. “because of the way patent law works, Apple basically had to sue Samsung to protect its intellectual property”

    No, that’s not correct. I think you’re confusing Trademark and Patent law. You must defend trademarks (like the name Apple) or you can loose them, but there is no such requirement for patents. You can sit and let years go back and then sue.

    Personally, I think patents should be treated more like trademarks, but they are not.

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