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Samsung vs. Apple in copyright showdown

Two of the world’s most prominent IT giants Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc. are poised to fight it out over patent rights.

Shortly after Apple said it had sued Samsung for “blatantly copying” its products, Samsung Electronics fired back Samsung would be filing a suit against Apple for copying its communications technology.

“We are definitely considering a lawsuit,” said Kim Nam-yong, a spokesman for Samsung. He added that Samsung had so far not taken up to the issue to Apple out of courtesy for their partnership, but that the situation has now changed.

Apple declined to comment on whether it believes it has infringed Samsung’s patents.

The American electronics maker is currently seeking injunctions, actual damages and punitive damages for the alleged copyright infringement.

But industry watchers were skeptical as to whether a public, legal brawl is in the making, citing the close relationship between the two IT giants.

“The most plausible scenario is that Samsung and Apple would bare their teeth for a while longer for dramatic effect, and then eventually reach a compromise,” said one industry expert who declined to be identified. “It was probably for that effect that Samsung is saying it also may be filing a suit.”

Samsung and Apple, despite their different strengths and scope, have forged a unique relationship based on both rivalry and collaboration, as each needs the other for supplies while competing for the same customers.

“There would be nothing to be gained, especially for Apple, not to mention that it’s not easy to prove that a certain design has been copied,” said Noh Geun-chang, a senior analyst at HMC Investment Securities.

Noh believed Apple’s true intention was to pound its rival before it releases the iPhone 5, and also take the steam out of Samsung’s new smart device lineup.

Another explanation, he said was that Apple is trying to reduce its reliance on Samsung Electronics.

Currently, Apple depends on Samsung for half of its mobile DRAM needs and also half of its NAND memory demand. Memory chips are indispensable components of smart devices such as smart phones and tablet PCs.

Apple may therefore be seeking to rely on other players, such as Hynix Semiconductors, Noh said. Apple currently depends on Hynix for just 10 percent of its NAND memory needs.

Apple is consequently forecast to become Samsung Electronics’ top customer, according to iSupply, a market research firm that expected Apple to purchase up to $7.8 billion worth of liquid crystal displays and semiconductors from Samsung this year, meaning Samsung also has much at stake.

The rivalry aspect of the two firms’ Samsung has been more accentuated of late over the so-called “smart war” that started when Apple unveiled its iPhone series beginning in 2007.

The local electronics maker was hot on Apple’s heels ever since, and quickly introduced its own lineup of smart devices; the Galaxy S to compete with the iPhone and the Galaxy Tab as a rival to the iPad.

Apple believes all of these Samsung’s products are far from indigenous.

“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 said in a statement.

Apple has been involved in similar lawsuits over patents and intellectual property with other global rivals as well, such as HTC, Motorola and Nokia.

By Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldcorp.com)
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