Apple vs Samsung timeline: Clash of the Titans

Computerworld Australia tracks the legal stoushes between Apple and Samsung in their rivalry in the smartphone and tablet market.

For the better part of a year, the ICT industry, along with the world’s population at large, has watched the legal battle raging between the two manufacturing heavyweights that are Apple and Samsung.

Both have in their stable a popular range of devices in the marketplace that cater to consumer and business demand for smartphones and tablets.

Below, Computerworld Australia tracks the to-and-fro legal battles between Apple and Samsung, which cover around 50 lawsuits and several different countries around the world.

With reporting from Diana Nguyen and Chloe Herrick.

Updated 2 July, 2012.

Early April 2011: The war begins

Apple started the stoush between the two companies when it launched legal action against the Korean manufacturer in the US with allegations that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Galaxy handsets “copied” the iPad, iPod and iPhone’s technology, design and packaging.

"Instead of pursuing independent product development, Samsung has chosen to slavishly copy Apple's innovative technology, distinctive user interfaces, and elegant and distinctive product and packaging design, in violation of Apple's valuable intellectual property rights," Apple said in the complaint to the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

"The copying is so pervasive, that the Samsung Galaxy products appear to be actual Apple products - with the same rectangular shape with rounded corners, silver edging, a flat surface face with substantial top and bottom black borders, gently curving edges on the back, and a display of colorful square icons with rounded corners," the complaint said.

Apple's lawsuit, filed on 15 April in the US, alleges Samsung copied external design features on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. It also claims Samsung designed application icons that come close to icons on Apple's devices.

Two can play this game

It took just a week for Samsung to hit back at the claims, slapping the company with a lawsuit in three countries for copying unique features of the Galaxy smartphone and Galaxy Tab device in the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.

The company took action on five alleged patent infringements in Seoul, two in Tokyo and three in Manheim, Germany.

"Samsung is responding actively to the legal action taken against us in order to protect our intellectual property and to ensure our continued innovation and growth in the mobile communications business," the company said at the time.

According to Samsung, Apple infringed on patents concerning reducing data transmission errors in WCDMA (Wideband CDMA) mobile networks, tethering mobile phones to PCs so the PC can use the phone's wireless data connection, and reducing power consumption when transmitting data over HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) networks.

August: Samsung delays the Galaxy in Australia

The legal action prompted Samsung to delay the launch of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, following its launch offshore.

However, the Korean manufacturer was at pains to reassure the public that the court had not slapped an injunction on the device and made clear its plans to fight back.

“Today, Samsung informed the Federal Court of Australia it intends to file a cross claim against Apple Australia and Apple Inc. regarding the invalidity of the patents previously asserted by Apple and also a cross claim against Apple regarding violation of patents held by Samsung by selling its iPhones and iPads," the company said at the time.

September: The Galaxy banned in Germany

In a blow to Samsung, a German court in September banned the company from selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany as it looked too similar to the iPad 2. The court did not stop there, ruling that Samsung Germany could not sell the device in any other European Union country, although it did not prevent other Samsung divisions doing so.

"We are disappointed with this ruling and believe it severely limits consumer choice in Germany," a spokesperson for Samsung said.

Not to be outdone, the Korean company hastily filed a complaint in France against the Apple iPhone 4S, alleging infringement of three technology patents, and also in the Netherlands, demanding a sales ban and recall of all Apple products that use 3G technology.

October: Samsung launches action in Italy

Across the border, the suing and cross suing did not slow down as Samsung took further action in Italy, with the intention to block the sale of the iPhone 4S on the grounds that it violated Samsung's IP rights.

"Apple has continued to flagrantly violate our intellectual property rights and free ride on our technology, and we will steadfastly protect our intellectual property," Samsung said.

This stand was shortlived when here on local soil in Australia Apple won an interim Federal Court injunction to prevent the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the country until the legal stoush could be fully resolved.

Justice Annabelle Bennett, who has presided over the ongoing case, said the balance of convenience had weighed in Apple’s favour in making the decision.

Not surprisingly, Samsung hit back by filing a preliminary injunction to halt the sale of Apple's iPhone 4S in the country and filing a preliminary injunction motion in the Tokyo District Court in Japan. The company also hastily launched its appeal to lift the ban of the tablet sales.

Late October: Steve Jobs declares he will destroy Android

With the passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs after a long illness, excerpts from his biography surfaced which depicted Apple’s feeling toward the patent war against rival operating system Android.

"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong," Jobs is quoted telling his biographer, Walter Isaacson, from the book, Steve Jobs. "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

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