The 373-page filing against the US company's biggest supplier - which also competes in both phones and tablets - offers revealing sales information.

Dan Gould
  • 20 april 2011

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This article titled “Apple lawsuit against Samsung reveals details about product volumes” was written by Charles Arthur, for on Tuesday 19th April 2011 21.39 UTC

Apple is suing Samsung, claiming that Samsung’s tablets and phones copy the “look and feel” of its iPhone and iPad.

So Samsung has threatened a lawsuit in response, though by the end of Tuesday no details were forthcoming of what it would contain.

However the row is not expected to disrupt the supply deal for components for the iPhone and iPad from… Samsung. In fact Apple probably buys more components from Samsung than Samsung’s own device manufacturing groups, say analysts, which means that the two are reliant on each other: abandoning Samsung for Taiwanese suppliers wouldn’t necessarily help Apple, and losing Apple as a customer would hurt Samsung, at least until it could find new buyers for the volumes it’s selling.

So why is Apple angry? Perhaps it sees Samsung as more of a threat; certainly its Nexus S and other Android phones can rival the iPhone for looks.

As for iPad lookalike-ness, Samsung says that it was initially working on making the Galaxy Tab – one of the first Android tablets to be released in 2010, after the iPad – have a curved screen, but three months before starting production decided to go with a standard flat screen.

Apple claims that the Samsung products copy many elements of its own, in a 373-page filing.

It’s perhaps surprising on the surface that Apple is choosing to go down this route, given its previous history with “look and feel” lawsuits: it tried that against Microsoft, to which it had licensed the “windows” concept and then headed over to court when Apple sued in 1985. Apple lost. And the “windows” became Windows. Und so weiter.

But this is more complicated: Nilay Patel has done a spectacularly long and detailed analysis of the full lawsuit, which we commend. He points out there that this is very different from that ill-fated lawsuit. It’s about “trade dress”, which is how it actually looks in its physical appearance – not how something behaves on a computer screen.

But the lawsuit (note: 9.7MB 373-page PDF) also reveals significant details about Apple’s business that hadn’t been released before in any form, given Apple’s purposefully vague financial results (which don’t, for example, give divisional profits or revenues, unlike most other companies).

Here are a few, from the

• “As of March 2011, more than 108 million iPhones had been sold worldwide”

• “By March 2011, Apple had sold over 60 million (iPod touch) units”

• “By March 2011, Apple sold over 19 million iPads”

• Apple spent more than billion advertising the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad during its fiscal years 2007 to 2010.

Those will be larger now, though the size of iPad sales will be telling: to the end of last year Apple said it had sold 14.8m, which would suggest a slowdown in iPad sales to only about 4.3m in the quarter – unless things have accelerated since then.

Horace Dediu has some analysis of what that implies about Apple’s financial results, due on Wednesday at 10pm BST. His analysis: 18.1m iPhones sold in the Jan-March quarter (compared to 16.2m in the previous quarter), between 4.5m and 5m iPod Touches, and between 4.2m and 7.3m iPad sales (compared to 7.3m in the previous quarter). © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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