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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