Samsung hits back at Apple in new patent war

The legal battle between Apple and Samsung took a new twist yesterday as the South Korean company, accused of "slavishly" copying the design of the iPad and iPhone, counter-sued their American rival for patent infringement.

The tit-for-tat litigation between the two electronics giants is the first sign that the growing trend for court action between smartphone companies could spill over into the tablet market.

Samsung said their lawsuits, which have been filed in South Korea, Japan and Germany, involves 10 alleged infringements of patents, mainly regarding power reduction during data transmission, 3G technology for reducing errors during that transmission, and wireless data communication technology.

"Samsung is responding actively to the legal action taken against us in order to protect our intellectual property and to ensure our continued innovation and growth in the mobile communications business," the company said in a statement.

The legal battle began last Friday, when Apple filed a suit accusing Samsung's Galaxy products of "slavishly" copying iPad and iPhone design features, such as the look of its screen icons.

The Galaxy range, which uses Google's Android operating system, is the top competitor to Apple's dominant products, with Samsung selling an estimated 13 million smartphones between January and March this year, compared with Apple's 18.6 million iPhone sales.

"Apple is quite annoyed by Samsung's fast rise in a market which it virtually created," James Song, a communications analyst at Daewoo Securities, told Reuters.

"It's quite threatening to see how quickly Samsung plays catch-up. "Apple might have felt a strong urge to put a brake on its march just when Samsung is set to roll out a new smartphone in May ahead of its own new iPhone."

While this latest lawsuit focuses on tablet computers, it is the latest in a long line of legal wrangling between smartphone companies, many of which are locked in long drawn out litigation.

In the past year alone, Nokia has sued Apple, which in turn has sued HTC and Motorola, while Sony has launched action against LG.

In addition, Motorola, which has a complaint outstanding against RIM, has been hit with a lawsuit by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who has also filed suits against a series of technology companies, including Google, over Android.

Earlier this month a judge in the US threw out a ruling that would have forced Apple to pay $625m (£379m) to small technology firm Mirror Worlds for alleged patent infringements over the way iTunes and other products display on-screen.