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Wednesday, July 06, 2011, 05:00 pm PT (08:00 pm ET)

Apple heats up legal battle against Samsung with new ITC complaint

Apple has filed a U.S. trade complaint against Samsung in hopes of blocking the import of the company's Galaxy S phone and Galaxy Tab touchscreen tablet as the legal dispute between the two companies ramps up.

The new filing comes days after the Cupertino, Calif.-based company asked a federal court to bring sales of the aforementioned devices to a standstill in the U.S. The complaint was lodged with the U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday, countering patent infringement claims made by Samsung to the ITC last week in an attempt to block imports of Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

“Samsung has followed each of Apple’s groundbreaking products with imitation products that incorporate Apple’s technology and distinctive design,” Apple wrote in the complaint. If the commission decides to pursue an investigation, the case will be heard in 15 to 18 months.

Apple and Samsung began their legal dispute back in April when Apple accused the Korean electronics giant of copying the look and feel of its devices. The disagreement has since spread to courts in four countries (1, 2). During the case’s proceedings, Apple was granted a request to see copies of Samsung’s unreleased products, while a counter-claim from Samsung was denied.

In addition to competing with the company in the smartphone and tablet markets, Samsung serves as one of Apple’s key component partners, supplying chips for most of their leading products. Given the two close partnership between the two companies, some analysts have been surprised by the intensity of their legal disagreement.

“It has become very public and very ugly, very quickly,” Bloomberg reported Gleacher & Co. analyst Brian Marshall as saying. “They’re just going after each other’s throats.”

Marshall believes that an import ban on Samsung’s devices is doubtful and predicts that both companies will eventually reach a settlement and cross-licensing deal. According to the analyst, Apple “may not have a choice” in licensing its intellectual property to Samsung, which has a number of patents Apple needs.

As tensions between the two companies have mounted, some have speculated that Apple plans to reduce its reliance on its rival. Recent rumors suggest the iPhone maker will go with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company instead of Samsung for its “A6” chip in 2012. Meanwhile, Samsung is restructuring its component operations and could be planning to spin off its semiconductor and LCD business to avoid a conflict of interest.