Samsung Electronics Co.?s newest tablet computer infringes at least three?Apple Inc. patents and must be barred from sale in Australia because it would unfairly steal from iPad sales, an Apple lawyer argued.
It must have been ?as plain as the Opera House to Samsung? that the design of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 infringed Apple patents, Steven Burley, Apple?s lawyer, said at the start of a scheduled two-day hearing in Sydney today. ?They ought to clear the way in advance rather than attempt to crash through.?
Apple is seeking Federal Court Justice Annabelle Bennett to prohibit the sale of Samsung?s Galaxy 10.1 tablets in Australia.
The two technology firms have been locked in an acrimonious global battle over smartphone and tablet patents since April, and Apple has successfully blocked Samsung from selling its latest tablets in Germany and some smartphone models in the Netherlands.
Apple sued Samsung claiming the Galaxy products ?slavishly? imitated the designs and technologies used in iPads and iPhones. Samsung struck back with lawsuits in?South Korea,?Japan?and Germany.
Apple?s iPad may account for 73 percent of tablet computer sales this year, according to the research firm Gartner Inc. Products that run on Google Inc.?s Android operating system, including Samsung?s Galaxy tablets, will probably have about 17 percent of the market, Gartner said in a Sept. 22 note.
Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, agreed in August to delay a planned release of the Galaxy 10.1 tablets in Australia until Bennett rules on Apple?s request for an injunction barring the sale of the products.
Samsung had altered its Galaxy 10.1 tablet from a US version that Apple claimed infringed 10 of its patents, to be released in?Australia. The Australian version, although with ?reduced functionality,? still infringes at least three patents, according to Burley. David Catterns, a lawyer for Samsung, denied the Australian tablet has reduced functionality.
Samsung countersued Apple on Sept. 17, saying the iPhone and iPad infringe seven of its patents related to wireless communications standards.
The agreement to halt advertising and the sale of the Galaxy 10.1 tablet doesn?t affect any other Samsung tablet or smartphone available in Australia, or other countries, the company said following the Aug. 2 hearing.
A German judge barred the sale of the Galaxy 10.1 tablets in Germany on Sept. 9, pending a trial of Apple?s patent claims. Apple also won an injunction in?Germany?prohibiting the sale of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, which has a smaller screen than the 10.1 or the iPad. That forced Samsung to pull the product from the IFA consumer-electronics show in Berlin earlier this month.
Another loss could dent Samsung’s ambitious attempt to close the gap with Apple in the global tablet market. The Galaxy gadgets, powered by Google’s Android operating system are seen as the biggest challengers to Apple’s mobile devices.
“Samsung’s tablet business will be most affected and its chip business will also take a hit as Apple moves to diversify away from Samsung to the likes of Toshiba,” said Nho Geun-chang, an analyst at HMC Investment Securities.
“But taking passive steps for fear of losing its biggest customer will slow down strong growth momentum at its telecoms business, which Samsung doesn’t want to see as the business is set to become the biggest?earnings?generator this year and make up for weakening chip profits. It’ll be a costly battle for Samsung.”
Samsung still trails badly in tablet sales, where Apple racked up 14 million iPad sales in the first half, versus analysts’ sales estimates of about 7.5 million Samsung tablet products for all of 2011.
Samsung and Apple will square off in a more significant US court hearing next month about an injunction case.
Technology experts say Apple’s intellectual property battle with Samsung Electronics is part of its broader strategy of using the courts to help cement the unassailable lead its iPad has in the tablet market.
Samsung is betting on its new tablets to close the gap with Apple and reach its target of increasing tablet sales by more than five folds this year.
Some analysts said Samsung’s aggressive stance could help it gain some support from consumers.
“These legal battles are raising perception among consumers that Samsung is the only one capable of competing against Apple,” said Choi Do-youn, an analyst at LIG Investment & Securities.
Despite the global court cases, both companies could end up settling the cases, HSBC analyst said in a note.
“The most likely scenario is an out-of-court settlement, after a long-drawn IP battle… As in the case of the Nokia-Apple dispute, this issue too is likely to be settled out of the court, after a long drawn legal dispute,” said HSBC analyst Daniel Kim.
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters