South Korean giant Samsung Electronics is aiming to block sales of Apple's iPhone 4S in France and Italy, claiming it's just like its own phones.
Apple has managed to scupper Samsung's own plans for some of its phones and tablets in some territories and Samsung is fighting back using the same tactic - not only is it accused of copying Apple's phones, it could now be said to be copying Apple's lawyerly tactics.
The South Korean-based manufacturer had already filed cases against Apple in the two European countries. With the worldwide attention on Apple's product launch, Samsung said it would seek preliminary injunctions to stop the iPhone 4S.
A Samsung spokesman said it chose the two countries because they are "key markets" in Europe and added that "factors including the local legal system and processes" influenced the decision.
For the past week, South Korean media have published reports citing unnamed Samsung executives that the company would try to stop the sale of Apple's new phone in some countries.
To date, courts in German and the Netherlands have temporarily halted sales of Samsung smartphones and tablet PCs pending further hearings on patent infringement claims. Courts in Australia and the U.S. next week are expected to decide on other Apple claims for injunctions against Samsung products.
In a statement, Samsung said it would accuse Apple of infringing on three Samsung patents used in so-called 3G, or third-generation, transmission technology. The statement called Apple's infringement "too severe" and added "iPhone 4S should be barred from sales."
The Samsung spokesman said the company contributed the patents to an international body that standardized 3G technology. By doing so, Samsung agreed to willingly license the patents to any competitor, including Apple, on a fair and reasonable basis. By seeking the injunctions, Samsung is claiming that Apple didn't properly access the pool of standards.
Throughout the two companies' legal battle, Samsung has been pressing courts to decide whether standards patents can be used to force a competitor to give up rights stemming from more-proprietary patents, which haven't been contributed to standards pools.
The strategy raises the prospect that courts will change the whole process of setting standards in the technology industry. "Preliminary injunctions based on standards-essential patents would create uncertainty throughout the tech sector," said Florian Mueller, a German consultant on intellectual property cases.
In France, Samsung said it would challenge Apple on one patent that covers the encoding of a signal transmission format and one that covers a method for correcting encoding errors. In Italy, Samsung said it would challenge on the signal transmission format patent and one that covers a method for bundling low bursts of data into a more efficient transmission.
In announcing the iPhone 4S on Tuesday, Apple said it would make the phone available on Oct. 14 in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. Apple said it plans to sell the phone in 22 more countries, including Italy and most of Europe, by the end of October.
Apple led the world by shipping 20.3 million units of smartphones in the second quarter, while Samsung was in second place at 19.6 million units. Samsung likely passed Apple in the just-ended third quarter as it ramped up sales of its flagship Galaxy S II smartphone, unveiled in