Samsung filed a motion in U.S. court to force Apple to hand over its next-generation iPhone 5 and iPad 3 for scrutiny, upping the ante in a tangle of legal action between the two tech giants.
The South Korean company wants to evaluate whether its Galaxy devices are similar to Apple’s products, and filed a motion on May 27 in California federal court to force Apple to pony up the prototypes. Samsung said it wants to scrutinize the next iPhone and iPad to “evaluate whether a likelihood of confusion exists.”
The company requested a look at Apple’s next-generation flagship devices and product packaging by June 13 so that it can “prepare its defense against any preliminary injunction motion brought against Samsung by Apple for trademark or trade dress infringement.”
The request is a tit-for-tat maneuver in a mounting legal battle between the two companies, both rivals in the marketplace and allies in a behind-the-scenes supplier relationship. Apple filed suit against Samsung on April 18, alleging the manufacturer “slavishly copied” the design and technology of its devices in its Galaxy lineup and violated copyright law.
Samsung hit back with a set of its own suits against Apple, accusing the company of copying as well.
But earlier this month, a U.S. District judge ordered Samsung to give Apple copies of several models of its Galaxy devices to check for infringement, including the Galaxy S2, Galaxy Tabs 8.9 and 10.1, and Infuse 4G and 4G LTE. The move was seen as a sign that Apple had convincingly laid down evidence in its case against Samsung and its copying of Apple’s designs.
“Apple has produced images of Samsung products and other evidence that provide a reasonable basis for Apple’s belief that Samsung’s new products are designed to mimic Apple’s products,” said Lucy Koh, the judge that granted Apple a peek at Samsung’s technology.
Samsung’s parallel request may be its way of evening the territory between the companies as the lawsuits pick up speed, and may be just business as usual in an increasingly software-focused market where it’s become common for companies to sue another to guard their intellectual property. Legal action is certainly nothing new for Apple, which has staked out patent territory in court with everyone from Microsoft and Motorola to Nokia and HTC.
However, the blow-by-blow could challenge a behind-the-lines relationship between the two companies. Samsung supplies Apple with LCD panels and semiconductors for its devices, and Apple is a significant customer of the company. With a four- to five-week delay in iPad 2 production due to parts shortages in the aftermath of the Japan quake and tsunami, Apple may be increasingly reliant on Samsung for those components.
The salvos fired off between Apple and Samsung may be just another day in court for the companies. But judging from the “eye for an eye” nature of Samsung’s latest move, the action may be heating up for the two companies.