Apple Inc has sued Samsung Electronics claiming the South Korean firm's Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablets "slavishly" copies the iPhone and iPad, according to court papers, a move analysts say is aimed at keeping its close rivals at bay.
Apple is one participant in a web of litigation among phone makers and software firms over who owns the patents used in smartphones, as rivals aggressively rush into the smartphone and tablet market which the US firm jumpstarted with iPhone and iPad.
Nokia and Apple have sued each other in numerous courts and as recently as last month Nokia filed a complaint with the US trade panel alleging that Apple infringes its patents in iPhones, iPads and other products.
Samsung is one of the fastest growing smartphone makers and has emerged as Apple's strongest competitor in the booming tablet market with models in three sizes but it remains a distant second in the space.
"If Apple fails to fend off Android, it will within a year or two find itself in a situation like Research in Motion, even if at a higher level (initially)," said Florian Mueller, a technology specialist and blogger on patent battles.
"Apple has realised this already as its new lawsuit against Samsung shows, but given what's at stake, I think Apple would have to do much more than this. It would have to sue more Android device makers and over more patents."
Samsung's Galaxy products use Google's (GOOG.O) Android operating system, which directly competes with Apple's mobile software. However, Apple's claims against Samsung focus on Galaxy's design features, such as the look of its screen icons, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit, filed on Friday, alleges Samsung violated Apple's patents and trademarks.
"This kind of blatant copying is wrong," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement.
Apple is bringing 16 claims against Samsung, including unjust enrichment, trademark infringement and ten patent claims.
"...Samsung has made its Galaxy phones and computer tablet work and look like Apple's products through widespread patent and trade dress infringement... By this action, Apple seeks to put a stop to Samsung's illegal conduct and obtain compensation for the violations that have occurred thus far," Apple said in the court document.
Samsung's shares closed up 0.9 per cent after slipping to their lowest level in one month in a broader market down 0.7 per cent.
Samsung said it would respond to the legal action "through appropriate legal measures to protect our intellectual property."
"Samsung's development of core technologies and strengthening our intellectual property portfolio are keys to our continued success," it said in a statement.
Samsung faces the challenge of moving beyond being a hardware company, clever at copying ideas, to becoming more creative, better adept at software, at a time when consumer gadgets are getting smarter all the time
City A.M. Reporter