Swatch Group has filed a lawsuit against Samsung Electronics with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for unfair competition and unfair business practices, reveals a recent Reuters report detailed further by The Verge.
In the complaint – which can be downloaded in PDF format via World Intellectual Property Review – Swatch Group alleges that Samsung Electronics infringed on its IP by offering watch faces based on original designs owned by the group's various brands including Jaquet Droz, Omega, Longines, Tissot, Mido, Hamilton, and Swatch.
The unoriginal watch faces have been developed by third-party developers and not by the Korean OEM itself, however they have been sold through Samsung's Galaxy Store – rebranded as "Galaxy Apps" earlier this month – and Swatch Group claims that the OEM did not take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening, despite a prior notification sent to Samsung Electronics last December.
The paper reveals that, on December 21, 2018, Swatch Group wrote a letter to Samsung Electronics Switzerland highlighting the infringing activities on the digital storefront, all the while providing examples of watch faces that have been based on watches created by Swatch Group's various brands. The examples are enclosed in the image gallery below.
The document further reveals that Samsung responded on January 7 and January 18, 2019, and removed the respective watch faces from the store but did not acknowledge there was an infringement and failed to take action and remove any other infringing watch faces that have not been mentioned directly by Swatch Group.
The complaint further highlights that even though the watch faces have not been developed by Samsung itself, the company takes a cut of 20-to-30 percent for every watch face sold through the Galaxy Store by third-party developers.
The watch faces were designed for Samsung's smartwatch models including the Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier, as well as the Gear Sport. One watch face design, in particular, was based on the one-of-a-kind Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater which costs around $650,000.
The lawsuit was filed on February 22, 2019; two days after Samsung introduced the new Galaxy Watch Active at its Unpacked event in San Francisco, along with the Galaxy S10 flagship series and its first foldable phone.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active runs Tizen OS 4.0 for wearables and comes with a new user interface based on One UI, along with several new original watch faces designed by Samsung.
Additional watch faces developed by the OEM and third-party developers alike are expected to become available through the Galaxy Apps digital storefront. They can be applied to the 1.1-inch circular AMOLED display featuring a resolution of 360 by 360 pixels and a pixel density of around 463ppi.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active represents a new step in the OEM's wearable lineup, boasting a new design language which abandons the rotating physical bezel featured on previous models. The new smartwatch is presently available for pre-order and will launch in the United States on March 8 for the price of $199.
Every pre-order placed before March 7 will be accompanied by a free wireless charging pad. It remains to be seen whether Samsung will take further precautions and set in place new rules for third-party developers interested in creating virtual watch faces in the future.