Down under, it's Samsung 1, Apple O. In the latest episode of the companies' worldwide patent war, Samsung has won a legal round against Apple's attempt to ban sales in Australia of its Android-based Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.
On Friday, the Australian High Court let stand a lower court ruling that overturned a preliminary injunction against Samsung's selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet. Samsung said it will soon start selling the 16GB Wi-Fi and 3G models in that country.
'Skin of Your Teeth'
The three-judge top court said that Apple had not shown reason to believe that it would prevail in an appeal of the lower court decision, and the court turned down Apple's request for a hearing.
Chief Justice Robert French told Apple that "you got your relief by the skin of your teeth," referring to the original lower court order, which had granted Apple's request for a temporary injunction against Samsung's selling of the tablet, on the grounds that it violated Apple's intellectual property. Last week, an appeals court overturned that temporary injunction, and this High Court ruling was on Apple's hearing to reinstate the ban.
There is still a trial to go through, although the date has not yet been established, and French said that maintaining the temporary injunction "would effectively determine the outcome" of the trial because, by preventing the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from being released for this holiday season, it would effectively render the product obsolete. Samsung has filed a countersuit in Australia, arguing that Apple's mobile devices infringe on its wireless technology patents.
While there are at least 30 lawsuits between the two companies in 10 countries, the importance of the legal war in Australia could reach beyond what happens to the Samsung tablet in that country. Florian Mueller, whose Foss Patents blog covers technology patents, has said that one of the two patents cited in Australia, related to touchscreen heuristics, is not tablet- or even device-specific. Instead, he has written, it is "very broad."
So broad, in fact, Mueller said that, if the patent is held to be infringed, no company will "be able to launch any new Android-based touchscreen product in Australia anytime soon without incurring a high risk of another interim injunction."
How About Windows Phone 7?
In Germany, a district court has agreed that the Tab 10.1's designs infringe on Apple's patents, preventing the product from being sold in the European Union. Samsung is trying to get around that by making changes to the appearance of the Galaxy Tab and selling it in Germany as the Tab 10.1N. Apple has asked to ban that as well, and a Dec. 22 court date is set for the question.
In France, Samsung has tried but not been able to block sales of the iPhone 4S.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Apple said it will appeal a Dec. 2 ruling by a federal court that declined to block sales of the Samsung's 4G smartphone or Tab 10.1, which Apple had sought on grounds of patent violations.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp., said that the battle between the two technology giants, and the specific risk that the conflict could pose to Android, does not appear to be having an effect on purchasing decisions by consumers or businesses. Some retailers like Best Buy, she said, "are keeping their eye on this," but the expectation is that it "could well take years to resolve this."
DiDio noted that the worldwide legal war between Apple and Android does "open up an opportunity for Microsoft to try and create a nervousness about the future of either platform," in order to show that their Windows Phone 7 does not have such instability.