Tech giants suing each other has become as common as Coldplay headlining Glastonbury or Manchester United winning the Premier League title. It happens all the time.
But the latest legal wrangle promises to crank things up a notch, with Apple going after Samsung, claiming it’s “copied” the iPhone and iPad with its Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab, not to mention a string of other US-only phones and the Google Nexus S. The wording of Apple’s filing couldn’t be more straightforward:
"Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple's technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products."
Except, there’s a snag. A £3.5 billion one. That’s how much Apple handed over to Samsung for components for all of its products, not just iPhones and iPads, last year. That’s a vast sum by anyone’s standards and is exactly why Samsung says it’s going to, “…respond strongly”.
There’s no denying that the Galaxy S and iPhone 3G (the iPhone that Apple says has been copied), do look alike to the untrained eye. Even the icons look the same. And it’s the software that’s really the issue here.
Apple is already going after Motorola over infringement of OS patent breaches. But this isn’t really about Motorola or Samsung. It’s about Google. But the very idea of Cupertino squaring up to Mountain View and flat-out claiming that Android is copied from iOS is unlikely and may be a bridge too far even for the litigious Steve Jobs.
So what exactly is Apple hoping to achieve? Surely this isn’t about money, seeing as we’re talking about the world’s second-largest company here. No, this is all down to mindshare and proof that it’s OS was the first and best touchscreen system.
That’s up for debate, but these legal battles only serve to develop the idea that Apple is always angry and always ready to sue. Largely that’s part of its success. But it also means that those not keen on the company will always stay away.
So, who will win this face-off? Let’s be honest, neither company is going to. An out-of-court settlement is most likely, but not for many years. In the meantime, the costly wrangling will help keep tech writers in headlines and give both companies something to mouth-off about during conference calls and special events.
Partly it shows that each side cares deeply about its products. But partly you just want to give each of them a good shake and tell them to get on with working on and releasing new kit. Fascinating as this is, no one will actually triumph and sales of both companies gear will continue to surge.