Apple's new iPhone 4S faces the prospect of court injunctions in France and Italy from the Korean electronics firm Samsung, which says the phones breach patents it owns on wireless communications.
It is an escalation of the struggle between Samsung and Apple, who are fighting a number of increasingly bitter court battles in various territories around the world. Samsung, which is challenging Apple for the title of the world's biggest maker of smartphones, says it plans to file preliminary injunctions in Paris and Milan on the basis that the iPhone 4S, announced in California on Tuesday night and expected in a number of countries including the UK from 14 October, infringes its patents on WCDMA technology.
The iPhone 4S combines both GSM and CDMA systems – the two principal methods of connecting to mobile networks – in a single phone, so that it can be used on almost any mobile network in the world without modification. Apple has been selling a CDMA version of the iPhone 4 since January, initially for use on the US Verizon network, though it is not sold in either France or Italy, which use GSM networks. Samsung filed a suit against Apple in the US in April claiming infringement of its WCDMA patents.
"Apple has continued to flagrantly violate our intellectual property rights and free ride on our technology, and we will steadfastly protect our intellectual property," Samsung said in a statement.
The South Korean company did not say when the French and Italian filings would take place, but did say it plans similar moves in other countries "after further review". Under the laws of France and Italy, companies can seek and courts can order a ban on sales of a product even before the product reaches markets, Samsung spokesman James Chung told Reuters.
Apple did not have any comment at the time of publication.
Samsung is set to report sharply lower quarterly earnings on Friday on persistent declines in chip prices, while investors look for signs that its telecom business can sustain its booming growth. Samsung has been a supplier to Apple of parts including touchscreens and memory chips, but the two companies have also been at odds through the courts since April, when Apple took legal actions claiming Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones and tablet computers, claiming that they copy its iPhone and iPad.
Samsung has responded by taking Apple to court over what it alleges are violations of its patents covering wireless communications. Samsung said the technology it claims Apple infringes "is essential to the reliable functioning of telecom networks and devices" and that it sees the alleged violations as "too severe and that (the) iPhone 4S should be barred from sales".
Apple has won sales injunctions against Samsung products in the Netherlands and Germany and is seeking one in Australia. Samsung has asked a court in the Netherlands to stop Apple from selling iPhones and iPad tablets in that country.