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Judge Nixes Samsung's Request to Ban Apple Devices in Japan

Judge Nixes Samsung's Request to Ban Apple Devices in Japan

The global tour that is the Apple vs. Samsung Patent Battle made a stop in Japan this week, where a judge ruled against Samsung in its quest to ban iPhone and iPad sales in the country. While there's no word yet on whether Samsung will appeal, the court case didn't seem to stem Apple's iPhone momentum in the key Japanese market.

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
03/01/13 5:00 AM PT

Apple won a victory over Samsung in a Japanese district court Thursday that will allow it to continue to sell iPads and iPhones in that country.

Samsung tried to block the sale of the Apple devices in Japan because it said they stepped on some data transfer patents that the company owned. Tokyo District Court Judge Ichiro Otaka, however, refused to approve the injunction because Samsung failed to "sincerely" negotiate with Apple to iron out the dispute between the companies.

Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

"We are disappointed by today's court decision," Samsung spokesperson Melissa Zabell told MacNewsWorld. "Following a thorough review of the ruling, we will take the measures necessary to protect our intellectual property rights."

No Damages

Blocking the sale of a product while a patent case is in progress is difficult to do, said Ken Horton, an IP attorney with Kirton McConkie. "It's hard to get a court to agree to that because you have to prove infringement," he told MacNewsWorld.

"Even if you can't get an injunction, you can still get damages if you prove infringement in a trial," he added.

The Tokyo court, though, also ruled that Samsung did not have the right to seek damages from Apple.

Samsung spokesperson Zabell would not comment on whether or not the company will try to appeal the decision. Such an appeal might be weighed in Apple's favor, noted Horton.

"It's always better to win at the lower court," he said. "Most upper courts will give some degree of deference to lower court rulings, because those judges are in the trenches and closer to the case."

Android Onslaught

Apple's victory in the Tokyo court is an important one for the company, as Japan is its second most important market in Asia, and one with room for growth.

"Up to now, this lawsuit hasn't had that much effect on Apple sales," Yankee Group Research Director Carl Howe told MacNewsWorld. "The iPhone was the top selling smartphone in Japan last quarter, which surprised a lot of people."

The iPhone has 30 percent of the smartphone market in Japan, but it's only carried by the second and third-place carriers in the country, according to Michael Morgan, a mobile devices analyst with ABI Research.

"Should NTT Docomo [Japan's largest carrier] pick it up, Apple could take its market share even further," he told MacNewsWorld.

Android is also doing well in Japan, with 68 percent of the market.

"Android is holding its own against even the newest iPhone models," he said. "That technology gap isn't there any more. The ability of the iPhone to steal high-end customers from Android is decreasing every day."

Hiring Judges

Last year, Apple tried to block Samsung's smartphones and tablets from being sold in Japan because they allegedly violated an Apple invention for synchronizing music and video data with servers. The district court ruled against Apple in that case.

Apple was seeking US$100 million in damages from Samsung in that lawsuit.

Apple and Samsung have been battling each other all over the world over intellectual property issues. Apple has been able to top Samsung in most of the cases that have been decided.

A country where Apple stumbled was the UK, where a judge ordered the company to post an apology on its website after losing an IP case against Samsung.

That decision may now seem tainted to some, however, since it was discovered that the judge, Sir Robin Jacob, has been hired by Samsung as an expert in a dispute with Ericsson.


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