Apple sues Samsung, says it copied iPad

Apple alleges that the Galaxy Tab and many Samsung smartphones violated its patents and trademarks

Apple has sued Samsung for allegedly copying the iPad, iPod and iPhone with its Galaxy Tab and Galaxy handsets.

Samsung copied Apple technologies, designs and even packaging with its Google Android-based products, according to a complaint filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Apple is seeking a jury trial in the case.

"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 says in the complaint.

Late last year, Samsung became the first major consumer electronics maker to roll out a tablet to compete with the iPad. It is also one of the world's largest makers of mobile phones, especially handsets that use Android.

The complaint includes 10 charges of patent infringement, two of trademark violation and two of trade dress violations, plus unjust enrichment and unfair business practices. Apple named Samsung Electronics, Samsung America and Samsung Telecommunications America as defendants. The case was filed at the district court in San Francisco but is being transferred to Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler at the court's Oakland, California, location.

A spokesman for Samsung in the U.S. said the company had no comment on the lawsuit. Apple officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The allegations span a broad range of Samsung's mobile devices, including the Epic 4G, Captivate, Indulge, Nexus S and Galaxy S 4G smartphones as well as the Galaxy Tab. Apple singled out the Galaxy product line for criticism.

"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 says.

Apple wants an injunction to stop Samsung's alleged intellectual property violations, along with actual and punitive damages, Samsung's "wrongfully obtained profits" and funds for corrective advertising about the allegedly confusing products.

Apple said Samsung continued the alleged violations despite repeated objections, leaving the company no choice but to sue.

In the complaint, Apple laid out several detailed design elements of the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad that it said Samsung copied. They include the rectangular case with rounded corners, the metallic edge and the thick, black bands that appear at the top and bottom of the iPhone and iPod Touch and all around the iPad. In addition to copying these, Samsung designed application icons for its devices that closely emulated Apple's icons for the phone, music player, notepad, contacts and settings functions, among others. Apple said those icons violate its trademarks.

Even the boxes for Samsung's products copied Apple, according to the complaint. For example, for the Galaxy S smartphone, Samsung uses a cleanly designed box dominated by an image of the phone, with the device cradled in the box so it appears as soon as the lid is removed, Apple said. Those packaging elements extend to the Galaxy Tab.

In addition to claiming protection for its "trade dress," Apple cited patents on several elements of its hardware and software design that it said Samsung violates. For example, the suit alleges Samsung infringed a patent on Apple's design for the slim buttons on the sides of its devices. It also says Samsung copied patented interface technologies, such as its method of making text messages between two people appear in bubbles on opposite sides of the screen.

Samsung's alleged copying has profited that company and hurt Apple by making consumers confuse its products with Apple's, according to the complaint.

"Samsung's marketing has played up the similarities between its Galaxy family and the Apple iPhone. ... Samsung's mobile phones were marketed as the phone that is closest to the iPhone," the complaint says.

The suit says Samsung engaged in "fraudulent and unlawful business practices" and unfair competition under California law. It also charges the company with "unjust enrichment" under federal law. "Apple seeks a worldwide accounting and disgorgement of all ill gotten gains and profits resulting from Samsung's inequitable activities," the complaint says.

The original iPhone was introduced in 2007, and the first iPad was announced in January 2010. Samsung introduced the Galaxy S in mid-2010 and the first Galaxy Tab late last year.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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