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The Globe and Mail

Apple, Samsung in symbiotic bond despite patent fight

A South Korean model holds a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 during its launch at the company's main building in Seoul in July.


From the FT's Lex blog

Apple 3: Samsung 0. On Thursday, an Australian court ruled against Samsung Electronics in a patent-infringement case brought by Apple, following broadly pro-Apple verdicts in Germany and Holland. That suggests that there is at least some truth in the Californians' claim that the Koreans' Galaxy phones and tablets are "slavish" copies of its own devices. (Either that, or Apple has better lawyers.)

Not that the score-line matters. Apple knows -- and Samsung knows -- that the two companies depend on one another.

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Samsung has been the exclusive supplier of processing chips for successive iterations of the iPhone and iPad; even if Apple wanted to award everything tomorrow to TSMC of Taiwan, it couldn't. Supply chains take months, if not years, to unwind, as older models are withdrawn. All the while, Apple would risk disruption to production, as Samsung's semiconductors division naturally prioritized shipments to its sister telecommunications division, where sales of smartphones (if not tablets) are on a tear. Apple also needs Samsung's super AMOLED screens, currently leagues ahead of competitors in thickness and weight.

Apple's aim is to throw sand in Samsung's gears by forcing it to design around defended patents. For Samsung, contesting them is the best way of reminding Apple that it is free to compete as well as serve -- just as it has done in the past with the likes of HP, Dell, Nokia and Sony.

The best expression of this complicated relationship, in fact, is not the ritualistic back-and-forth in a Sydney courtroom, but in the decision by Samsung to postpone the launch of its Nexus Prime phone, scheduled for earlier this week, as a mark of respect for the death of Steve Jobs. When the late Apple chief suggested in March that 2011 could be the "year of the copycats," he was absolutely right.

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