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Will Docomo’s New LTE Service Fan The Flames In The Apple vs. Samsung Fire?

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We may be approaching the point where it’s fair to ask the following question: Where haven’t Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Samsung sued each other in court over patent and design infringements? Today, Japan became the latest country to see legal action from Apple over allegations that Samsung violated Apple patents in its Galaxy line of devices. The suit, which seeks injunctions on the devices, could potentially threaten more than just the Korean device maker…

…It comes on the same day that Japan’s leading mobile operator NTT Docomo launched its new 4G LTE network and showcased the already-contested 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab as a flagship device for the service.

The suit, first reported by Japan’s Kyodo news agency, says that Apple is seeking ¥100 million ($1.3 million) in damages, plus a slightly more costly penalty: an injunction on the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy line of handsets in the country.

Back in April of this year, Samsung fired the opening salvo by filing a patent suit against Apple in Japan — that suit was part of a suite of legal filings from Samsung that also included Germany and South Korea.

From the looks of the report by Kyodo, the injunction request from Apple, filed on Wednesday, only covers handsets for the moment — not tablets. A further post from Reuters says that the injunction covers the Galaxy S and S II smartphones, as well as the smaller, older Galaxy Tab 7.7.

But if actions in other countries are any precedent, we may also see Apple extending that request to cover new tablets as well — such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, a device that has seen injunctions in Europe (some now lifted; others still in effect), as well as a court-ordered delay in launching in Australia as the companies continue the discovery element of their suit.

As coincidence would have it, today NTT Docomo, the country’s biggest mobile operator, unveiled its 4G LTE network — branded Xi (pronounced “Crossy”) — and at the same time showcased two new 10.1-inch tablets that it will be promoting and selling with the service: Fujitsu’s first Android tablet, the waterproof Arrows; and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 (pictured) — the same device that has been the subject of Apple complaints elsewhere.

Both devices will be branded as NTT Docomo devices on the front, rather than Fujitsu and Samsung, and will have several applications specially optimized for Docomo and preloaded on to the devices, including the Skype-owned video sharing app Qik, and the Hulu premium video service, its first foray abroad, which was announced last week.

The Docomo LTE service is due to launch at the beginning of October: that gives Apple the rest of this month to get its ducks in a row and decide what further action, if any, it might take next.