Apple files ITC complaint against Samsung

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One good legal action deserves another. Bloomberg reports that Apple has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), seeking to block the imports of tablets and smartphones made by Samsung. The move comes a week after Samsung filed a similar complaint, attempting to block the import of Apple’s mobile electronics devices.

The full text of Apple’s complaint, submitted to the ITC on Tuesday, was not available as of this writing, but if the commission does agree to investigate, a full hearing would likely be held anywhere from 15 to 18 months from now.

Of course, this is just the latest move in the dispute between the two companies, which began in April when Apple sued Samsung in a California district court for supposedly copying the design of the iPhone and iPad with its smartphones and tablets, including the Nexus S, Galaxy S 4G, and Galaxy Tab.

Samsung quickly sued Apple right back, alleging its own spate of infringements, most of which related to technical patents rather than the devices’ look and design. Both companies also attempted to get access to the other’s forthcoming products in order to supposedly validate the legal claims, a move which Apple described in a court filing as an attempt by Samsung to “harass” the company.

Cupertino also upped the ante by launching a patent lawsuit against Samsung in the company’s home country of South Korea; legal actions have also been filed by the two companies in Japan, Germany, and the UK. Over the past weekend, however, Samsung dropped its countersuit against Apple in California, a move it says was made to “streamline the legal proceedings.”

Prior to this whole sorry mess, Samsung was one of Apple’s biggest suppliers of key components like flash memory and LCD panels, but the litigation between the two companies has put that future in jeopardy. Indeed, Apple reportedly is already looking at shifting some of its processor production away from Samsung to alternative vendors.

So where does this latest move leave us? Well, based on Apple’s legal wranglings with other companies—HTC, Motorola, Nokia—we’re probably in for a long haul as all the various legal proceedings get resolved. Filing complaints with the ITC seems to be more of a formality than anything, so don’t expect Samsung or Apple’s products to be yanked off shelves any time soon. The two companies are far more likely to settle before it gets close to that stage. Right now, they’re just jockeying to see who ends up with the bigger piece of the pie.

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