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Apple, Samsung, Flattery and Theft

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Unlike any other sector, the competition that exists in technology is often brutal and sometimes downright nasty. As soon as a market leader emerges, it immediately becomes the target of every rival in the industry that wants nothing more than to put it out of business. It's a cutthroat business where survival depends on not only protecting what you have, but sometimes getting away with what you can steal.

What Research in Motion (RIMM) was able to do to Palm is the perfect example. Though they say imitation is the best form of flattery, in business it's the No. 1 cause of death.

Brilliance or Theft?

Like the great artist Pablo Picasso, the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of technology giant Apple (AAPL) understood the meaning and the importance of "inspiration." In fact, one of my favorite quotes from Jobs, "Good artists copy; great artists steal," was itself borrowed from Picasso. While we can put Jobs' fondness for this quote into context, I think we can agree that he was saying "brilliance" doesn't always have to come from an original thought.

Jobs understood that a good idea does not have the design and functionality suitable to turn it into a great product. I happen to agree with that. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any need for corporate attorneys.

In the constant battle for market cap and market share against the likes of Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT), the lines between theft and brilliance often blur. Things only become "clear" when one company thinks it has become the victim of a robbery. This is what Apple has illustrated in its cases against Google and most recently Samsung.

Since recently becoming the world's No. 1 device manufacturer, topping Nokia (NOK) in terms of sales, Samsung has earned more than its share of attention from Apple. Samsung's Android-based Galaxy devices have proven to be the only true challenge to the iPhones and iPads. But apparently these devices have drawn too much "inspiration" from Apple -- at least Apple thinks so.

I think Apple should appreciate that Samsung was a student in the "Steve Jobs School of Art". Now as an Apple shareholder myself, I say this with a great deal of respect for the company. Not only has the company captured our imaginations, but it has told us it knows what's best for us -- and we agree.

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