Apple Scores Hit on Samsung in German Courts

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2012-01-31 Print this article Print

Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 is still subject to a sales ban in Germany, according to a new court ruling. Apple and Samsung continue to battle in courtrooms worldwide.

A Dusseldorf court declined to overturn a ruling that bars Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet from sale in Germany. Apple and Samsung have been locked in a particularly vicious legal battle in that country, with both sides suing each other over supposed patent violations.

Late in 2011, Apple's legal counsel scored a temporary injunction from the German courts that blocked Samsung from selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1, claiming the tablet copied the iPad. Samsung responded by releasing the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, modified to sidestep the ban; in November, Apple responded with a preliminary injunction against the revised tablet. The courts will apparently hand down a decision on that case in early February.

In the meantime, this most recent decision by the Dusseldorf Higher Regional Court upholds the sales ban on the original, unmodified Galaxy Tab 10.1. According to patent expert Florian Mueller, who wrote about the court proceedings in a Jan. 31 posting on his FOSS Patents blog, the smaller Galaxy Tab 8.9 "falls within the scope of that injunction."

However, he didn't see all hope as lost for Samsung. "The appeals court based its decision on a violation of Germany unfair competition law," he wrote, "while the lower court's ruling was based on a finding of violation of a Community design, the European equivalent of a U.S. design patent."

Because of the uniqueness of Germany's unfair competition laws, he added, "Apple can't replicate the German decision in other countries." Also, despite the headline-generating nature of these preliminary injunctions, Samsung also has some time before what he described as "the full-blown main proceedings," which will involve "Apple's design-related claims against a total of 15 Samsung products."

At this point, he sees the battle continuing well into the future. "Apple's and Samsung's claims against each other continue to have a very high drop-out rate in different jurisdictions," he wrote in a separate Jan. 27 posting on his blog. "Since both companies are doing very well (with Apple being not just highly but even unbelievably profitable), they can afford to keep going, and at this point neither litigant has the leverage to force its rival into a settlement."

Over the past few months, Apple has failed to have Samsung's Galaxy tablets and smartphones banned in the United States. Other courtroom battles continue all over the world, including Europe and Asia. Although Apple's iPad and iPhone claim a considerable portion of the tablet and smartphone markets, the devices are facing down an ever-broadening collection of rival Android devices from various manufacturers. 

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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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