Apple turns tables


Apple is trying to force Samsung Electronics Co’s mobile devices off US store shelves a week after dodging an iPhone 4 ban by a rare White House veto.


The company will ask a US appeals court on Friday to block sales of Samsung models a California jury found violated patents for the iPhone’s look and features. Later, a US trade agency is expected to say if it will halt some Samsung imports based on other Apple patent-infringement claims.

For Cupertino, California-based Apple, making Samsung change or stop selling some smartphones and tablet computers is more important than money. The $1 billion verdict it won at trial last year equals less than two weeks’ worth of iPhone sales and one-seventh of Samsung’s second-quarter profit. “Sometimes, the money’s not enough,” said Ray Van Dyke, a technology-patent lawyer with the Van Dyke Firm in Washington. “Between Apple and Samsung, it’s about who’s going to be the top dog. You want to shut them down. This is the club. You can beat them into submission with a club and maintain your top dog status.”

Apple and Samsung together make almost half of all smartphones sold, with Samsung holding the title of world’s biggest and the two companies vying to be No 1 in the US. The two companies are spending millions of dollars in legal fees battling across four continents. Neither has been able to strike a crippling blow. An import ban that could have halted some of Apple’s older iPhone 4 and iPad 2 3G models at the US border was vetoed by President Barack Obama’s administration last week.

Slowing Samsung’s momentum will be hard — most of the models named in Apple’s patent cases are no longer sold as Samsung regularly introduces new devices in different price ranges. The company said it has designed around the Apple patents in newer products.

“Samsung’s US sales of the older products in question are very small, which accounts for even less than one per cent of the company’s total handset sales there,” said Kim Young Chan, a Seoul-based analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp.

Based on Samsung’s filings with the US International Trade Commission in Washington, the impact will depend on the wording of any import ban imposed by the agency. A broadly worded order finding infringement of Apple’s patent for the phone’s front design “could create an immediate shortage of millions of mobile devices,” the filing said.

The trade commission, which investigates unfair trade practices, is scheduled today to announce the results of its review of a judge’s findings that some Samsung models infringed four Apple patents. If there is a violation, the commission could order a ban on imports. That too would be subject to review by the Obama administration, and the Korean Ministry of Trade, on August 5, said that it would be watching the case.


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