Samsung Electronics Counter Sues Apple as Patent Row Deepens

Apple and Samsung
A Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy S smartphone, top, and an Apple Inc. iPhone 4 are arranged for a photograph at an electronics store in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Samsung Electronics Co. said it sued Apple Inc. claiming patent infringement, a week after the iPhone maker filed a complaint in U.S. federal court alleging the South Korean company copied its products.

Samsung submitted complaints to courts in Seoul, Tokyo and Mannheim, Germany, alleging Apple infringed patents related to mobile-communications technologies, Suwon-based Samsung said in an e-mailed statement today. Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment and referred back to the company’s complaint filed last week.

The move deepens a legal dispute that’s pitting the maker of the iPhone and iPad against the producer of the Galaxy mobile devices amid surging demand for smartphones and tablet computers. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, who relies on Samsung to supply chips for Apple products, said last month the company was among the tablet makers angling to make 2011 the “Year of Copycats”

“Apple is trying to annoy Samsung - they’re throwing a ball at Samsung to keep them in check,” said Chang Sea Jin, a business professor at National University of Singapore. “This is strictly business. The typical way to deal with cases like this is to counter sue. It’s not between the management of Samsung and Apple, their lawyers will work it out."

Samsung, the world’s largest maker of memory chips that store data, fell 2.7 percent to 903,000 won as of 11:35 a.m. in Seoul trading, while the benchmark Kospi index lost 0.1 percent. Samsung counts Apple as its second-largest customer.

Patent Infringement

"Apple may try to diversify their suppliers and reduce their reliance on Samsung," said Chang. "But no other company has as low costs as Samsung, so Apple won’t likely drop Samsung altogether."

The lawsuit filed in the Seoul Central District Court cites five patent infringements, the complaint in Tokyo cites two and the German one cites three alleged violations, Samsung said. Apple infringed Samsung patents related to communication standards and a technology that connects mobile phones to personal computers for wireless data transfers, James Chung, a Seoul-based spokesman for Samsung, said by telephone.

‘‘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,” Samsung said in the statement.

Pinching, Zooming

Samsung is infringing seven patents related to the way the Galaxy devices understand user gestures, including selecting, scrolling, pinching and zooming, Apple said in its April 15 complaint. Samsung is also infringing three patents on the design, including the flat black face of the iPhone and iPad, according to Apple’s complaint. The Galaxy phones and tablet, which use Google Inc.’s Android software, were specifically designed to copy Apple products, Apple said.

Apple is seeking a court order to block further use of its patents and trademarks, along with cash compensation and “reasonable funds for future corrective advertising.”

Samsung’s mobile-phone business “crossed the line,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, said this week after the company reported profit that almost doubled from a year ago.

Apple and Google are competing for supremacy in the growing market for smartphones and tablets. Google’s Android software -- used by Samsung, Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and other companies -- will account for 39.5 percent of global smartphone shipments this year, compared with 15.7 percent for Apple, according to market research firm IDC.

The iPad dominates the tablet market, accounting for about two-thirds of sales this year, according to Gartner Inc.

Apple is involved in a patent fight with Motorola Mobility Holdings, as is Microsoft Corp. Apple lawyers are also arguing before a federal trade panel in Washington that another Android user, HTC Corp., is infringing other patents.