Samsung win appeal in Apple tablet battle

Samsung Electronics's Galaxy Tab 10.1N

South Korean electronics giant Samsung Wednesday won its appeal against a temporary ban on sales of its Galaxy tablet device in Australia, a rare victory in its legal tussle with rival Apple.

The Sydney courtroom battle is part of a wider global war in which two of the world's biggest technology companies are vying for supremacy in the US$100 billion market for tablet computers and smartphones.

The Federal Court of Australia in Sydney lifted the ban on the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 ahead of a full hearing on claims from the US giant that the device copies its iPad computer.

But Apple immediately won a stay of orders, meaning that Samsung will not be able to sell the Galaxy in Australia before 0500 GMT Friday.

"The appeal will be allowed," the judgment by Justice John Dowsett, Justice Lindsay Foster and Justice David Yates concluded.

"Samsung will be permitted to launch the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia provided it keeps accounts of all transactions involving that device in Australia or originating from Australia."

Samsung Electronics Australia said it was pleased with the decision.

"We believe the ruling clearly affirms that Apple's legal claims lack merit," it said in a statement issued from Seoul, adding that it would comment shortly on the market availability of the tablet in Australia.

The Federal Court granted an interim order against the sale of the Galaxy 10.1 in October, ruling that Apple had established a prima facie case that the South Korean company had breached touchscreen technology copyrights.

But in reversing this decision, the court said there was "a real and substantial prospect" the supply of the Galaxy would not infringe an Australian patent relating to the touchscreen, one of several on which Apple had sought the temporary ban.

"We have referred to a number of difficulties that confront Apple in making good its case on infringement. It may well be that, on a final hearing, Apple will meet these difficulties. But difficulties they are," they said.

They said while the case was open to be argued, they were doubtful of whether Apple had established a prima facie case on that particular claim.

Apple may now apply to the High Court for a further extension of the stay of sales beyond Friday, despite objections from Samsung.

"It simply serves to prolong the injustice suffered by Samsung," lawyer Neil Young told reporters.

In their judgment, the justices noted that the commercial life of the Samsung tablet was approximately 12 months from launch and given there was no final hearing fixed for the matter, the initial ban had "the practical effect of killing off the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia".

"Although not so as a matter of law, the practical effect of those injunctions is to deliver to Apple complete victory in respect of its claims for final injunctions in respect of that device," they said.

Apple won a similar ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany in October related to copyright breaches, prompting Samsung to later say it had modified the design of its newest tablet in an attempt to bypass the sales ban.

The two companies are also engaged in an ongoing battle over smartphone and tablet technology in the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Tim Renowden, a consumer IT analyst with technology consultancy firm Ovum, said the move would inject greater competition into the Australian tablet market, currently dominated by the iPad, in the lead-up to Christmas.

"From a consumer's point of view it's preferable to have competition in the market, rather than in the courts," he said.

"Samsung's Christmas elves will be rushing to prepare Galaxy Tab orders."