Apple vs. Samsung vs. Apple

Apple is suing Samsung for copying iPhone and iPad designs, while simultaneously buying out Samsung's production of key iComponents

I'm reminded of the "Simpsons" episode where flying lawsuits ultimately morphed into "Everybody v Everybody."

Apple's just filed a lawsuit against Samsung in U.S. District Court in Northern California, going after Samsung because the Android-based Galaxy smartphones and Tabs "slavishly [copy] a combination of several elements of the Apple Product Configuration Trade Dress." Apple specifically doesn't like the phones' and Tab's copycat rectangular design with round corners, black border, and tiled icons.

"When a Samsung Galaxy phone is used in public, there can be little doubt that it would be viewed as an Apple product based upon the design alone," says the filing.

Of course, just about every tablet -- and most smartphones -- use rectangular design, black (or white or chrome) border, and tiled icons.

The lawsuit alleges patent and trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Samsung vows to "respond actively to this legal action taken against us through appropriate legal measures to protect our intellectual property."

The lawsuit doesn't mention that Apple is Samsung's second-largest customer -- or at least it was; in 2010, Apple contributed $5.6 billion of Samsung's $142 billion in revenues. Samsung provides many key hardware components for the iPhone and iPad. In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple spent $7.8 billion for Samsung components, including LCD panels, flash memory, and A4 and A5 mobile processors designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung.

Apple routinely signs huge contracts with suppliers, locking in the manufacturer's entire supply for months on end. The strategy not only guarantees a source to fill the gaping iPhone and iPad sales maw, it also locks out competitors' ability to nail down reliable sources for the latest components.

Rumors are swirling that Apple is playing footsie with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to provide many of the components Samsung has offered in the past. Perhaps most of the makings of the iPhone and iPad are about to change allegiances?

This story, "Apple vs. Samsung vs. Apple," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.