Apple has failed to have Samsung's Galaxy smartphones and tablets banned in the United States, in a legal ruling that could have broad implications on the two companies' worldwide battle.
Apple's filing earlier this year with the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California argued that Samsung's mobile devices closely copied the iPhone and iPad in look, packaging and user interface. "Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smartphone products and consumer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple's technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products," read the original suit, to which Samsung responded with patent-infringement suits of its own.
But a judge for that court decided Dec. 3 that Apple-whatever the merits of its actual argument-had not established enough of a case for Samsung's products causing "irreparable harm" to the market for Apple's tablets and smartphones. As such, Apple's attempt at a preliminary injunction against Galaxy Tab devices has been denied.
That being said, Apple could still triumph when the actual case moves to trial in summer 2012. And the two arch-rivals continue to fight in courtrooms all over the world, including Europe and Asia. In Australia, Apple is appealing a lower-court decision to lift the injunction on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. In Germany, Samsung has introduced a modified Galaxy 10.1N, designed to sidestep the Apple-induced ban in that country.
At least one analyst feels that Samsung has a decent chance of beating back Apple's legal attacks.
"Samsung doesn't have to be -Samesung,'" patent expert Florian Mueller wrote in a long analysis on his FOSS Patents blog Dec. 3. "As long as it's allowed to build products that consumers view as equally attractive as Apple's, and that are distinct enough to comply with the law but still similar enough in the eyes of actual and prospective buyers, Samsung will be just fine."
Apple's complaints have focused on Samsung allegedly copying its designs in addition to infringing on technical patents. But the California court ruled in favor of Samsung about the validity of certain Apple design patents, making that aspect of the case harder for Cupertino to argue-at least in theory.
"If Apple wants to defend market share against Samsung," Mueller added in his analysis, "it really needs to focus on solid technical patents instead."
The case filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd et al, 11-1846.