October 14, 2011 12:45
Samsung Electronics and Apple are locked in around 30 legal battles in 10 countries around the world -- Korea, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. The lawsuits differ from country to country and range from design to communications technology.
Apple has won three straight legal battles in Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, opting for injunctions, which involve relatively fast court orders resulting in bans on the sale of Samsung products. In contrast, Samsung has opted for formal lawsuits involving patents that take months before a judgment is made, so many claims Samsung has made have not been proven and it is still too early to say which side has the upper hand.
On Thursday afternoon, a judge at the San Jose district court said Samsung's tablet PC Galaxy Tab 10.1 infringes Apple's design patent, but added Apple may have to demonstrate its claim to the validity of its patents. Although this is the first review by the court, both sides have submitted ample materials to support their views and explained their cases making it possible that the issue could be resolved with a single ruling. If the court accepts Apple's request for an injunction, Samsung stands to lose a huge market. If the court rules in favor of Samsung, it would mark the first victory for the Korean IT giant in Apple's own backyard.
Another crucial case is a lawsuit Apple filed in Spain claiming the Korean company's products copy the design of the iPad. Apple registered the iPad at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market based in Spain and won an injunction order by a Spanish court in August banning the Galaxy Tab in Spain. Samsung says Apple can hardly own the design patent for the rounded corners of the iPad because such shapes were commonly used in products before. It remains to be seen whether Spanish officials will accept Samsung's claim or side with Apple, but the decision is expected to have a significant impact on the fates of the two companies in Europe.
A case before a Mannheim court in Germany is also important, because that is where a ruling on the first formal patent lawsuit, rather than an injunction, is expected soon. Samsung sued Apple in Mannheim in April accusing the U.S. company of infringing on communications patents.
The legal dispute in some ways mirrors a battle between Nokia and Apple that ended in June. Apple cited its design patents and battled it out with Nokia for 20 months. Nokia fired back using its communications patents. Although the results were mixed depending on the country, Apple agreed to pay Nokia a fee to use its patented technologies. That decision came just before the Mannheim court made a final ruling on the Nokia-Apple lawsuit. Industry experts believe that when Apple saw that it was going to lose, it threw in the towel.
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