Apple's quest to remove its competitor from the market has now taken it to the "Land of the Rising Sun", Japan. In Japan, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics, top Android handset maker Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (SEO 005930) Galaxy S smartphone has been outselling Apple's iPhone. But Apple's lawyers have a plot to change that situation.
News broke late yesterday that a couple weeks back Apple filed yet another lawsuit against Samsung, this time seeking to ban Japanese sales of the company's bestselling Galaxy S and Galaxy S II smartphones, as well as the new Galaxy Tab 7.7 tablet.
The new Japanese suit, filed Aug. 23, makes the familiar accusation that Samsung "slavishly" copied Apple's smart phones and tablets. It seeks 100 million yen ($1.3M USD) in damages and a complete sales ban.
Apple initiated the court battle, suing Samsung in multiple courts in the U.S., Australia, South Korea, and Europe. Samsung responded by counter-suing in these regions. It was in fact Samsung who struck first in Japan, filing suit in April. Samsung is looking to fight fire with fire and is asking for a ban on iPhone and iPad sales.
Sources we've spoken to close to Samsung indicate that the device maker does not truly wish to restrict consumers selection, rather they hope that a potential sales ban would force Apple to drop its questionable lawsuits out of self-interest and let consumers decide which company's products are victorious.
II. Does Apple Own the Exclusive Right to Make Smart Phones and Tablets?
Apple claims to own exclusive rights to produce any modern smartphone or tablet, claiming ownership of all multi-touch in mobile devices and all thin, rectangular minimalist mobile device designs.
Apple has been granted design patents in many regions that appear to grant it sweeping ownership of minimalist tablet designs. In short the patents declare Apple to own exclusive rights to making thin rectangular tablets with a minimalist single (homescreen) button design.
Apple was granted the design patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2005. Apple would not be able to produce its vision commercially until five years later in 2010.
Similarly, Apple claims to own exclusive rights to develop multi-touch devices. It was granted a patent on multi-touch in mobile devices, despite the fact that Myron Krueger and the University of Toronto developed and published papers on virtually equivalent technology almost 25 years prior to Apple producing its first multi-touch device (the iPhone).
III. Outlook for Apple's Plot is Mixed
Apple's plans may be in jeopardy given a recent Netherlands court ruling, the first major decision in the case. The judge in that case rejected Apple's claims of owning exclusive rights to the tablet design and multi-touch as ridiculous. He wrote, "There was no violation by Samsung on any of Apple's design or copyright..."
The judge essentially handed Samsung a victory, declaring that it only infringed on one minor patent that dealt with a feature in Android's Gallery application. The verdict cleared Samsung to continue sales in Netherlands, much to Apple's chagrin.
Apple has succeed in securing temporary sales bans in Germany and Australia. The Australian case will be decided September 26, while the German case should be decided tomorrow, September 9.
If Apple can't topple Android's top handset and tablet makers with lawsuits its hopes of being the market's top player look bleak. Reports indicate that Android is outselling Apple nearly 5-to-2 globally, a gap which is widening with every passing month.
Meanwhile Apple has seen its tablet market share plunge from approximately 94 percent to 61 percent in a year, while Android has risen from 3 percent to 30 percent over the same period. Most expect Android to soon pass Apple in tablet market share as Apple continues to stick to limited product selection (just a single product in the tablet market, in fact) and a sluggish release schedule (one new design per year).