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Dutch court slams EU-wide injunction on Samsung

Rejects all but one of Apple's claims, but finds Galaxy phones infringe one key patent, and bar import by Dutch subsidiaries

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 24 August, 2011

READ MORE: Europe | Samsung | Patents/IPR | Android

After its brief reprieve in Europe, Samsung has once again been slammed with a Europe-wide injunction in its battle with Apple. This time the ban, imposed by a Dutch court, applies to the Galaxy S, S II and Ace smartphones, not to the Galaxy Tab, which was the subject of a German ruling, subsequently reversed.

This is a significant blow to the wider Android defence against Apple's aggressive patents lawsuits. While many of the Galaxy actions focus on 'design patents' rather than technological IPR, this ruling centers on an Apple patent related to scrolling actions and the browsing gallery. The court rejected all Apple's other claims, including those that Samsung violated registered designs, copyrights and style imitation. Nevertheless, this is the "first enforceable software patent court decision worldwide against Android devices", argues intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller on his FOSS Patents blog.

The Dutch judgement bars sales of the three smartphones across the European Union from October 13, on the basis that one of the Apple patents in question is likely to be infringed by "one or more of the applications that ship with Android and without which the usefulness of Android would be impaired". It is not clear whether that patent is also implicated in the recent preliminary ruling against HTC, in Apple's case at the US International Trade Commission (ITC), where it is also suing Samsung. If upheld, that injunction could prevent the Taiwanese vendor importing its Android smartphones to the US.

The Dutch ruling, while important in its implications, does not represent immediate disaster for Samsung, which risks missing out on the European holiday season sales if Apple continues to win rulings against it. The latest decision applies to certain Dutch subsidiaries of Samsung, and so the Korean giant can reorganize its logistics, and says it will work to ensure a consistent supply across the EU - though with Holland being a major distribution hub for the firm, this will not be a simple task.

A Samsung spokesperson said in a statement that the ruling against Apple on design was "an affirmation that the Galaxy range of products is innovative and distinctive", and added: "With regard to the single infringement cited in the ruling, we will take all possible measures including legal action to ensure that there is no disruption in the availability of our Galaxy smartphones to Dutch consumers. The ruling is not expected to affect sales in other European markets."

Samsung South Korea which can still import its devices anywhere in Europe except The Netherlands, and, in the case of the Tab, Germany, after the previous ruling. That was overturned because of doubts over whether a German court could impose such a decision on the whole EU, when the vendor was not an EU supplier.

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