Apple attacks Samsung

Apple Inc has asked a federal court in California to block Samsung Electronics Co Ltd from selling its new Galaxy Nexus smartphones, alleging patent violations. In a suit filed last week in San Jose, Apple said the Galaxy Nexus infringes on patents underlying features customers expect from its products. Those include the ability to unlock phones by sliding an image and to search for information by voice.

With the new suit, Apple is opening up another legal assault on the Korea-based company after taking Samsung to the same court in April of last year. In the earlier case, Apple alleges that Samsung illegally copied iPhone and iPad design features and the look of its screen icons.  That case is still going on, though in December Apple lost a bid for a preliminary bar against Samsung for selling Galaxy phones and tablets. Apple acknowledged the setback in the new action and said now it is suing over new products and different patents.

In addition to the California cases, Apple and Samsung are waging more than 20 legal fights in at least 10 countries in their war for global leadership of smartphone and tablet markets. The new case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Apple Inc v. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The strangest thing about the case is the target: a single phone, and not either of the companies involved in making it. Still, the suit is a closer strike at Google than Samsung, since the patents deal with software features that will, for the most part, extend to every phone with Android 4.

The second lawsuit is a continuation of Apple and Motorola’s slapfight in Germany, where Motorola asked that Apple pay a 2.25 percent royalty on each iPhone and iPad sold for use of Motorola’s 3G-related patents. A judge in Germany ruled in Apple’s favor. Now Apple is suing Motorola in the US over the 3G patents, claiming that Motorola’s actions in Germany violated one of Motorola’s patent licensing agreements with Qualcomm. Apple claims that as a customer of Qualcomm (its chips are inside the iPhone 4S), the company is a third-party beneficiary of the Motorola-Qualcomm agreement, so Motorola shouldn’t be allowed to sue Apple over the relevant 3G materials.

Apple may be in the right, but that doesn’t make this a smart move. Apple has tried to keep their innovations to themselves before – but other companies got around it and Apple suffered. I think a smarter move is to sell their technology to other companies with a provision that anyone building anything even based on Apple technology pays a royalty fee to Apple. If Apple continues to divide their attention between making advances and keeping them away from other companies, they may someday find themselves left in the dust.

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