Samsung Electronics Co.’s debut of its Galaxy 10.1 tablet computer in Australia may be delayed beyond the end of the month after a judge said she needs time to study Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s patent-infringement claims.
Federal Court Justice Annabelle Bennett may grant a “brief” injunction on sales of the Samsung tablet as she considers arguments from Samsung and the iPad maker, the judge said during the first day of a two-day hearing over whether the Galaxy Tab should be banned in Australia until the dispute is resolved. The judge urged both sides to consider starting their patent-infringement trial as soon as possible.
“Technology moves very quickly, ” Bennett said. “It would be in both sides’ interest to have this matter finalized quickly.”
The dispute is part of a global fight between the two companies, the world’s two largest makers of tablet computers, which began in April in the U.S. after Cupertino, California- based Apple sued Samsung claiming Galaxy products “slavishly” imitated the designs and technologies used in iPads and iPhones. Samsung struck back with lawsuits in South Korea, Japan, Germany and Australia.
Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, targeted the iPad 2 and adopted as many of its features as it could in developing its newest tablet, Steven Burley, Apple’s lawyer, said today.
It must have been “as plain as the Opera House to Samsung” that the design of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 infringed Apple patents, Burley said. “They ought to clear the way in advance rather than attempt to crash through.”
Samsung threatens to steal Apple’s sales of iPads with its products and that would also threaten sales of iPhones, applications and accessories because people like to stick with one brand, Burley said.
A ban on the sale of the product would go too far, David Catterns, Samsung’s lawyer, told the judge.
“This is a high-stakes fight,” Catterns said. “This is where we draw the line.”
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 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 product.
Fighting Until IPad 9
Under usual circumstances it would take “well into next year” to resolve the patent dispute, Catterns said. Apple would be prepared to go to trial next week, Burley told the judge.
Catterns said that by the time the patent dispute is resolved at trial, Apple would be selling the iPad 9.
Samsung had altered its Galaxy 10.1 tablet from a U.S. version that Apple claimed infringed 10 of its patents, for release in Australia. The Australian version, although with “reduced functionality,” still infringes at least three patents, according Burley. Catterns denied the Australian tablet has reduced functionality.
Apple didn’t object to earlier versions of Samsung’s tablets even though they used the same technology, Catterns said.
The 10.1 is a bigger threat to Apple because it’s the thinnest tablet computer on the market, Catterns said.
“They didn’t sue before but now they’re worried,” Catterns said of Apple. “It’s the thinness of our product that worries them.”
Samsung countersued Apple on Sept. 17, saying the iPhone and iPad infringe seven of its patents related to wireless communications standards.
At today’s hearing, Apple focused on one alleged patent infringement, relating to the touch screen technology of the iPads. Samsung had agreed not to fight Apple’s claim that the Galaxy 10.1 uses zoom technology that infringes its patent.
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 that country 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.
The case is: Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. NSD1243/2011. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).
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