At peak of Apple patent war, Samsung names a new CEO

June 7, 2012, 9:28 AM UTC

New Samsung CEO Kwon. Photo:

FORTUNE — With an Apple (AAPL) patent trial set to begin July 30 and no settlement in sight, Samsung replaced its chairman Thursday.

According to Reuters, the new CEO is Kwon Oh-hyun, a 27-year veteran of the Korean electronics giant. He succeeds Choi Gee-sung, who met with Apple CEO Tim Cook last month in San Francisco for two days of court-ordered mediation talks.

They failed to come to terms.

We don’t pretend to understand all the ramifications of the executive reshuffling, but according to TechWeb China, Kwon comes out of Samsung’s semiconductor and liquid crystal display businesses, two divisions that count Apple as among their most important customers.

Choi, the former CEO, had previously served as president of Samsung’s mobile phone division, which in the past year has overtaken Apple — as well as Nokia (NOK) and Research in Motion (RIMM) — to become the world’s leading smartphone vendor.

Samsung, Apple charges, built its lead on the strength of Apple’s industrial designs and an operating system — Google’s (GOOG) Android — that Steve Jobs famously characterized as total iPhone “rip-off.”

Samsung is now being sued by Apple for patent infringement in Europe, Asia and the U.S.

In its latest legal offensive, Apple asked the U.S. International Trade Commission Tuesday for a preliminary injunction banning importation of Samsung’s newest smartphone, the hot-selling Galaxy S III.

See also: Why Samsung must negotiate. Why Apple won’t settle.