Samsung Electronics will be allowed to sell its latest Galaxy tablet computers in Australia during the crucial Christmas shopping season after it won a rare victory against Apple and overturned a sales ban in the country.
The decision by a federal appeals court in Australia comes after setbacks for Samsung in Europe, where Apple successfully sued to block sales of Samsung’s tablets in Germany, Europe’s largest market. Samsung has also had to modify some of its smartphone features for the European market following a temporary sales ban on its three Galaxy smartphones in the Netherlands.
Samsung and Apple are locked in about 20 legal disputes in nine countries including the US, South Korea, Japan and the UK, and analysts said this latest verdict should bolster Samsung’s position in these cases. “The ruling shows that Apple’s claims on design are relatively weak while Samsung can fight back with its patents on 3G technology,” said Jae Lee at Daiwa Securities.
The intensifying legal wranglings between the two companies highlight their complex relationship. Samsung is an important supplier of parts for Apple products, but the South Korean company is also the biggest maker of smartphones based on Google’s Android platform and therefore Apple’s biggest competitor in smartphones and tablets.
In Australia, Apple was granted an injunction in October, temporarily blocking sales of the Galaxy 10.1 tablet. Federal Court Justice Lindsay Foster on Wednesday reversed the sales ban but granted a stay until Friday. Apple will have to go to the High Court to extend the period further.
The ruling provides a timely boost to Samsung, which had planned to scrap Australian sales of the newest Galaxy tablet if it could not meet the Christmas shopping season because it claimed the delay would render the device “dead”.
Samsung welcomed the decision and expects to start selling the Galaxy 10.1 as early as Saturday. “We believe the ruling clearly affirms that Apple’s legal claims lack merit,” the company said.
The Australian case centres on patents used in touchscreen technology. Apple claims that Samsung’s tablet infringes its technology and design patents while Samsung is also pursuing a claim in Australia, alleging Apple’s iPad 2 infringes its patents for wireless technology in 3G mobile handsets. A trial on Samsung’s claims will be held in March in Australia.
In a separate case, Samsung has also tried to block sales of Apple’s latest iPhone 4S by seeking court injunctions against Apple in Australia and three other countries. An Australian court is scheduled to hear the case in March and April next year with sales allowed to continue until the hearings.
On Monday, Apple filed a preliminary injunction request in Germany to ban sales of Samsung’s revised model of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The original version of the device has been banned in Germany, and Samsung had redesigned it to circumvent the contentious features.
Apple is also seeking a sales ban on Samsung’s mobile devices in the US, which is one of Samsung’s biggest markets.
Additional reporting by Robin Kwong