AP Interview: Samsung to step up Apple patent war

September 23, 2011 - 6:25 AM
South Korea Samsung Apple

South Korean students use Samsung Electronics' new tablet Galaxy Tab 10.1 at its showroom in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. A top Samsung Electronics Co. executive says her company will take a more aggressive stance against its smartphone and tablet rival Apple Inc. in a global patent dispute. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A top Samsung executive says the company will take a bolder stance in its patent battle with smartphone and tablet rival Apple, which Samsung claims has been "free riding" its patented wireless technologies.

"We'll be pursuing our rights for this in a more aggressive way from now on," Lee Younghee, head of global marketing for mobile communications, said in an interview.

Lee, a senior vice president at Samsung, did not say what form the South Korean company's stronger stance would take or if there would be more lawsuits. But her remarks suggest a definite change in tone. She described its previous approach as "passive."

So far, Samsung has mostly spoken about the dispute through press releases and comments by anonymous company officials in South Korean and foreign media. The public nature of the comments appeared to back up recent South Korean media speculation the company was planning to go on the offensive.

The fight began when Apple sued Samsung in April in the United States, alleging the product design, user interface and packaging of Samsung's Galaxy devices "slavishly copy" the iPhone and iPad.

Samsung has responded with its own lawsuits accusing Apple of violating its intellectual property. The fight has spread to 10 countries, according to Samsung, including the United States and South Korea.

The battle is all the more complex as Apple and Samsung are not only competitors in the fast-growing global market for smartphones and tablet computers, but also have a close business relationship.

Samsung Electronics Co., the world's biggest manufacturer of memory chips and liquid crystal displays, supplies some of the key components that go into Apple Inc. products.

Lee said that Samsung has kept that relationship in mind amid the dispute with the Cupertino, California-based company, and has largely been pulling its punches.

"We've been quite respectful and also passive in a way" in consideration of those links, Lee said during the interview in her office at Samsung's headquarters building in southern Seoul. "However, we shouldn't be ... anymore."

Apple reacted to Lee's comments by reiterating its claim Samsung has violated its intellectual property.

"It is no coincidence that Samsung's latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging," said Seoul-based spokesman Steve Park. "This kind of blatant copying is wrong and we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."

Lee's comments came after a German court ruled earlier this month that Samsung cannot directly sell its new Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in the country, saying the design too closely resembles Apple's iPad 2. Samsung has appealed the decision.

Samsung ranked No. 2 globally in smartphones behind Apple in the second quarter of this year, according to U.S.-based market research firm IDC, which cited the growing global popularity of the Galaxy S smartphones. In overall mobile phones, Samsung ranks second behind Finland's Nokia Corp.