Judge Halts Sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab in the U.S.

A judge ordered Samsung to halt sales of its Galaxy 10.1 tablet computer while the court considers Apple’s patent infringement claims.

Apple Inc. insists that Samsung Electronics Corp. infringed its design patent and copied the look of the iPad. Photo: Samsung USA/Flickr

Samsung Galaxy Tab is considered by most analysts as the biggest rival to Apple’s famous product, iPad. The trial for the case is scheduled to begin in California on 30 July.

US District Judge Lucy Koh had previously said that the two devices are “virtually indistinguishable,” but she decided in December not to take the dramatic step of stopping sales of the Galaxy 10.1.

“Apple has established a strong case on the merits,” Koh said at the time.

However, the judge changed her mind after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit urged Koh to take another look at Apple’s request for an injunction, ruling June 19 that it appeared the Cupertino-based company had a strong case. The Washington, D.C., court handles most patent appeals.

“Although Samsung has a right to compete, it does not have a right to compete unfairly, by flooding the market with infringing products,” said Koh.

In its statement to the BBC, Samsung said that it “will take necessary legal steps and that the ruling was unlikely to have a significant impact on its business”.

Apple started an international patent war in 2010 as it interested in limiting of the growth of Google’s Android system, the world’s best-selling mobile operating platform.

A decisive injunction in one of the U.S. legal cases could strengthen Apple’s hand in negotiating cross-licensing deals, where firms agree to let each other use their patented technologies.

According to Reuters, some experts are convinced that the iPad maker is using patents too aggressively in its bid to stamp out competition.

“The relief being given to Apple here is extraordinary. Preliminary injunctions are rarely asked for and rarely granted,” said Colleen Chien, a professor at Santa Clara Law in Silicon Valley.

“That this was a design patent and copying was alleged distinguish this case from plain vanilla utility patent cases.”

He went on: “Cases involving these kinds of patents are based more on a counterfeiting theory than a competition theory, so I don’t expect this case to have ramifications for all smartphone disputes, but rather those involving design patents and the kind of product resemblance we had here.”

Samsung will definitely try to appeal Koh’s ruling to a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, which has exclusive jurisdiction over intellectual property disputes.

“Apple sought a preliminary injunction of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, based on a single design patent that addressed just one aspect of the product’s overall design,” Samsung said in a statement.

“Should Apple continue to make legal claims based on such a generic design patent, design innovation and progress in the industry could be restricted.”

The South Korean company announced it would take necessary legal steps, and did not expect the ruling to have a significant impact on its business, as it has a broad range of products. During last year Samsung brought out three tablet models.

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet reiterated a prior statement from the company, saying Samsung’s “blatant copying” is wrong.

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