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Why are Apple and Samsung Suing Each Other?

For the past few years, Samsung and Apple have consistently been the top two biggest mobile phone sellers worldwide. But their battles have extended beyond the shop shelves and into the courtrooms. Since 2011, the two tech giants have clashed in over 40 litigation cases. So why are Apple and Samsung suing each other?

The answer basically comes down to who owns the intellectual property rights to which ideas. Apple initially sued Samsung in 2011. Since then there have been two headline multi­billion dollar cases, each with its own complex set of counter­cases and appeals.

Both cases have been in the US where potential compensation awards are much higher than anywhere else in the world. Last year, the rivals agreed to stop suing each other outside of the US. But their courtroom battles across the pond are ongoing.

Round 1: Apple v Samsung Litigation

The litigation first kicked off in April 2011 when Apple sued Samsung for $2.75 billion dollars. Samsung were accused of violating Apple’s intellectual property in 26 Samsung phones and tablets, including the Galaxy S, Tab and Note. Apple suggested that Samsung’s products copied the look and feel of their iPhone and iPad. Meanwhile Samsung counter­sued for $421 million, claiming any mimicry was, in fact, the other way around.

In a biography of Apple’s late boss, Steve Jobs is quoted as deciding to go ‘thermonuclear’ on the issue of alleged intellectual property breaches. Apple’s lawyers suggested that they had risked the company with the innovative iPad and that Samsung had benefited from merely copying their innovative technology. Some commentators have suggested Apple’s primary motive for suing was to slow down the meteoric rise of the Android Operating System.

When the case went to trial in August 2012, Apple were awarded $1.05 billion. Samsung got nothing. After a number of subsequent revisions in the courts on technical grounds, the figure Samsung owed was rounded down to $980million. As of the time of writing, that ruling is still being fought in the appeal courts.

Round 2: Apple v Samsung Litigation

Last year, with the first major case still ongoing, Samsung and Apple renewed US courtroom hostilities. This second major case involved different patents and newer devices, including the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3.

Apple sought $2 billion from Samsung for allegedly violating 5 different patents. These included slide­to­unlock functionality, background syncing (e.g. calendars and email) and predictive text. Samsung claimed $6 million from Apple for alleged infringement of 2 patents. The technology in question was video transmission functionality and organisation functionality for folders and cameras.

In May, the California judge awarded Apple $119 million. Despite such a large payout, it was significantly less than the amount they asked for. Legal experts have suggested that Apple would barely have covered their costs for bringing the cases. Samsung were awarded $158,000.

Apple v Samsung Litigation: Ceasefire (sort of)

It appears that both Samsung and Apple are beginning to tire of locking horns across international courtrooms. In August the companies announced that they had agreed to end all legal action against each other. All legal action that is, except for in the more lucrative US courts.

However the agreement still curtailed lawsuits in around a dozen countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Australia and Samsung’s homeland, South Korea. It’s thought that the multi­millions of dollars previously being spent on costly, drawn out lawsuits will instead be invested in increased innovation.

Despite the constant rounds of courtroom clashes, the two tech supremos have remained business partners throughout; Samsung supplies Apple with key components of its devices including processors and memory chips.

Why are Apple and Samsung suing each other?

Samsung and Apple have been fighting it out in the courts over alleged intellectual property infringements for nearly four years. However the agreement to stop legal action (outside of the US) signals a move towards more traditional forms of market competition; i.e. in terms of sales. Why are Apple and Samsung suing each other? Well, as 2015 rolls on and the parties look to settle, the answer might very soon be: “they’re not!

The ongoing US legislation suggests Apple and Samsung aren’t quite done in the courtrooms yet. Here at Samsung Geeks we’ll be keeping a close eye on future developments…

Image: Samsung v Apple on Flickr (Creative Commons)

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