June 7, 2012 at 11:01 AM ET
Apple is fighting in court to try and prevent Samsung from selling its new Galaxy S III in the United States, claiming the smartphone infringes on some of its patents, including a voice-recognition feature Apple essentially said is a copycat of its personal-assistant tool Siri on the iPhone 4S.
The Korean electronics manufacturer has been on an upward trajectory lately, and Apple said letting the Galaxy S III hit the U.S. market will cause "irreparabl[e] harm" to the Cupertino colossus.
In its complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Apple all but comes out and says the new Galaxy — which has been popular where it has already been released, and has garnered favorable reviews from tech media outlets — is a threat to its flagship iPhone. It cites reports that consumers have already placed nine million preorders for the Galaxy S III.
Samsung issued a statement saying the new Galaxy is "innovative and distinctive" and that it will fight Apple's claims.
"They've been battling each other across the globe, and at this point, Samsung has the edge in terms of smartphone sales," said R “Ray” Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research. "What Apple really feels is that Samsung has really taken and tried to steal the look and feel of the iPhone."
In December, Apple was successful at getting a "limited exclusion order" on the import of two HTC phones by making similar patent-infringement arguments.
What makes this and other recent patent spats between device makers and software companies difficult is that they are about the user's interaction with their phone rather than just the hardware itself, Wang said. "People are trying to trademark customer experiences, because that's what we're competing on now… that's what's really at stake here."
The stakes are high for Apple. An Associated Press report cited analyst speculation that the next version of the iPhone will come out as early as July. If Samsung is permitted by the court to keep its launch schedule on track and debut the Galaxy S III this month, it will have several weeks' head start to woo consumers away from Apple.