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Apple Sues Samsung for Copying iPhone and iPad

Apple is suing Samsung Electronics for copying the designs of the iPhone and iPad to develop the Galaxy S smartphone and Galaxy Tab tablet PC. Samsung dismissed the allegations and said Apple is using its patented communications technologies without permission. Industry insiders believe Apple, which pioneered the smartphone market, is trying to prevent Samsung from catching up.

◆ "Blatant Copying"

Apple last Friday filed the intellectual property infringement suit in a district court in northern California.

"It's no coincidence that Samsung's latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said. "This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."

Apple is demanding a public apology and damages.

◆ Counterattack

Samsung declined to comment in detail since it has yet to receive a formal complaint but denied it copied Apple's designs. A Samsung spokesman said Apple is the one guilty of copying. Samsung claims it patented numerous mobile phone and communications technologies over the last 20 years, and Apple, which entered the market later with the iPhone, is using the patents of existing electronics companies without permission.

Industry insiders believe Apple filed the lawsuit in an attempt to halt Samsung's rapid rise, because the timing of the suit coincides the launch of the next-generation Galaxy S2 smartphone later this month. A follow-up to Apple's iPhone 4 will be released after June.
◆ Samsung-Apple Ties

Samsung seems worried. Although the two companies compete fiercely in the markets for mobile phones and tablet PCs, Apple is paradoxically Samsung's biggest client for some components, buying huge volumes of chips and LCD screens for iPhones and iPads. Last year alone, Apple bought US$5.3 billion worth of products from Samsung last year, accounting for 4 percent of total sales at the Korean electronics giant. Now Samsung's biggest customer is about to become its biggest enemy.

◆ Prospects

Apple's products are famous for their sleek and efficient designs. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad have all become global bestsellers due to their simple design and easy-to-use functions. Samsung's Galaxy S, which was developed to compete with the iPhone, has a relatively sleek body and clear LCD screen, resembling the Apple gadget at first glance. Oh Byeong-seok, a patent attorney at Oh & Hahm IP Strategy & Law Firm, said, "U.S. patent laws tend to widely recognize the originality of designs, including the external appearance of a product, a particular part of it or its icons." Oh advised Samsung to prepare well since there is a chance it could be found guilty of copying Apple's design.

But Apple's design is not completely original. It is well known that the iPod MP3 player was based on the T3 portable radio by renowned German industrial designer Dieter Rams. Kim Hyung-joon, a professor of industrial design at Seoul National University of Science and Technology, said, "Apple and Samsung's products look similar, but this can be seen as part of general design elements." Designs follow fads, and Apple's sleek designs are just the latest of these, he said.


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