Monday, August 1, 2011

Galaxy Tab 10.1 down under: Apple has Samsung on the defensive in Australia

Bloomberg reports a very important development from Australia: at a court hearing today in Sydney, Samsung agreed not to sell the U.S. version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia and additionally promised to provide Apple with three samples of the (purportedly somewhat different) Australian version at least seven days before the beginning of its distribution, thereby enabling Apple to seek a preliminary injunction against that one before it's even released.

[Update] Meanwhile Samsung has issued an official statement on the situation, and I've analyzed it in a follow-up blog post. I consider it to be extremely weak. [/Update]

A court hearing is scheduled for August 29 at any rate. According to the report, Apple asserted 10 patents related to the "look and feel" and touchscreen user interface of the iPad. A lawyer for Apple is quoted as saying that Apple is seeking injunctions in other countries. He didn't specify those countries, but Apple recently filed a motion for a preliminary injunction with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which is scheduled to take a decision in mid October.

Apparently, Samsung didn't want to take its chances trying to defend its U.S. product in the Australian court. Instead, Samsung hopes to defend its Australian version. But this does appear pretty weak. If Samsung believed that the U.S. version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn't infringe any of Apple's rights, it would have defended itself as a matter of principle. The agreement made in the Federal Court of Australia appears to require Apple to indemnify Samsung if this blockade turns out to have been unjustified at the end of the patent infringement lawsuit. I don't know the exact wording of that agreement, but in general, such damages might relate to lost sales due to a delayed release of the product as well as the cost of modifying products to work around the asserted patents.

After a recent initial determination by an administrative law judge at the US International Trade Commission against HTC, this is the second significant blow Apple deals to Android within only a couple of weeks.

The Australian decision obviously isn't binding in any way upon the courts in other countries, but the fact that Samsung didn't just stand up to defend the U.S. version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 serves as an indication that Apple's allegations probably have some merit.

Global patent war

With the Australian action reported today, Apple and Samsung are now litigating against each other in (at least) elevent courts in nine countries on four continents:

  • North America

    • United States of America

      • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

      • U. S. District Court for the District of Delaware

      • U.S. International Trade Commission

  • Europe

    • Germany

      • Landgericht (District Court) Mannheim

    • United Kingdom

      • High Court of England and Wales

    • France

      • Unspecified French court

    • Italy

      • Unspecified Italian court

    • The Netherlands

      • Unspecified Dutch court

  • Asia

    • Japan

      • Unspecified court based in Tokyo

    • South Korea

      • Central District Court (Seoul)

  • Australia (continent)

    • Australia (country)

      • Federal Court of Australia (Sydney)

It was actually Samsung's strategy to take this dispute global. Following Apple's original lawsuit in California, Samsung responded with litigation in Asia and Europe, followed by countersuits in the United States.

What goes around comes around...

Update: Sydney Morning Herald publishes list of patents

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on this Australian dispute in detail and provided (at the end of its article) a list of the patents-in-suit. Those are mostly touchscreen-related patents, and the U.S. versions of those patents have previously shown up in other lawsuits instigated by Apple.

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