SEOUL—Samsung Electronics Co. said on Thursday that it expanded its legal tussle with Apple Inc. by filing a complaint with the International Trade Commission seeking to stop the sale of key Apple products in the U.S. Samsung also said it filed another lawsuit against Apple in a Delaware district court in the U.S., alleging violations by Apple of patents Samsung holds on telecommunications technology, as well as lawsuits in the U.K and Italy.
The two steps are part of a broader strategy by Samsung to counter a product-copying lawsuit that Apple filed against it two months ago. In the original case, legal analysts say Apple is moving toward seeking a preliminary injunction that could force Samsung to stop selling its flagship smartphone, called Galaxy S, in the U.S., its largest market. With the ITC complaint, Samsung asked for a ban on the import of Apple’s popular iPods, iPhones and iPads to the U.S. The fight is one of many that have emerged over the past year in the smartphone and tablet computer markets, new segments of the technology industry where profit margins are relatively high and market leadership is unsettled. But it has taken unusual prominence because Apple and Samsung, while competing in consumer products, have a relationship in which Apple is the biggest customer of Samsung’s component manufacturing businesses, which make logic chips, memory chips and liquid crystal displays for gadgets of all types.
Since the first suit was filed, the legal approaches of the two companies have exposed their different basic competencies and advantages in the marketplace. Apple is asserting the primacy of its ability to design distinctive products, a skill that enables it to charge premium prices and reap larger profit margins. Samsung is asserting that its manufacturing prowess is equally, or even more, valuable. The fight has prompted speculation throughout the electronics industry that Apple might try to end its supplier relationship with Samsung, a move that would prove costly to Samsung’s chip business, which has been yielding the company’s highest profits over the past few years.
Apple executives have said they expect the relationship to continue. Samsung has declined to comment on the relationship, but company chairman Lee Kun-hee in late April indirectly criticized Apple’s lawsuit as an attempt to restrain Samsung. “When a nail sticks out, [people] try to pound it down,” Mr. Lee told local reporters at the time.
Samsung responded to the initial Apple lawsuit with countersuits in the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Germany that claimed that Apple violated technology patents it holds. After all that, Apple last week filed a second suit against Samsung, in Samsung’s home country of South Korea, that repeated some of the product-copying claims made in the original suit in the U.S. and added claims that Samsung was violating some technology patents that Apple holds. Samsung extended its technology patent suit to the U.K. and Italy on Wednesday and said it may file additional patent suits in Europe.
Samsung’s new complaints to the ITC and in a Delaware court allege different violations of Samsung patents by Apple than Samsung has made in its earlier suits, a company spokesman in Seoul said. In announcing the latest moves, Samsung repeated its earlier statements that it would “actively defend our intellectual property.”