Apple Wins Ruling on German Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablet Ban

Apple Inc., the world’s most valuable technology company, won backing from a German court for a ban on sales of Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy 10.1 tablet computer in the country.

A Dusseldorf court today upheld the temporary sales ban it issued Aug. 9, rejecting Samsung’s bid to overturn it for the most part. The judges won’t ban sales in other European Union countries as Apple had sought, Presiding Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann said when delivering the verdict.

Apple, the maker of the iPad, won a second injunction at the same court last week, forcing Samsung to pull the new Galaxy Tab 7.7 out of the IFA consumer-electronics show in Berlin. The legal battle between Cupertino, California-based Apple and its closest rival in tablet computers is intensifying as an increasing number of consumers use devices such as tablets and smartphones to surf the Web, play games and download music.

“The court is of the opinion that Apple’s minimalistic design isn’t the only technical solution to make a tablet computer, other designs are possible,” Brueckner-Hofmann said. “For the informed customer there remains the predominant overall impression that the device looks” like the design Apple has protected in Europe.

Samsung said it will appeal. The ruling “severely limits consumer choice in Germany” and “restricts design innovation and progress in the industry,” the company said in a statement e-mailed after the ruling was issued.

Apple Design

The court didn’t compare the Galaxy tablet with the actual iPad and instead focused on a design Apple filed with the European Union intellectual property agency in Alicante, Spain, Brueckner-Hofmann said.

Samsung’s tablet didn’t keep enough distance from the Apple design, the judge said. While the back of the Galaxy is different from Apple’s registered design, the important feature is the front, which is nearly identical, she said.

“The crucial issue was whether the Galaxy tablet looked like the drawings registered as a design right,” she said. “Also, our case had nothing to do with trademarks or patents for technology.”

The EU wide ban was upheld for Samsung’s German sales unit. The court doesn’t have jurisdiction to issue an EU-ban against Suwon, South-Korea based Samsung, itself, Brueckner-Hofmann said.

Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston forecasts tablet sales could reach about 2.4 million units in Germany this year, up from 0.6 million in 2010, making it Europe’s third-largest market after the U.K. and France.

The Dusseldorf court on Aug. 9 granted Apple a preliminary sales ban in 26 of the 27 EU member countries, only to scale back its reach a week later over jurisdictional issues.

Apple won a ruling over sales of Samsung’s Galaxy S, S II and Ace smartphones in the Netherlands last month. Samsung filed a lawsuit in London against Apple on Sept. 7. Details of the case weren’t immediately available from the court.

Today’s case is: LG Dusseldorf, 14c O 194/11.