Apple Lands Blow Against Samsung With Galaxy Tab Injunction
Apple has succeeded in convincing a court to ban sales of the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet in Australia until the two companies settle their intellectual property dispute in that country. Apple and Samsung are skirmishing in several places around the globe. "The need to work around Apple's patents has the potential, over time, to reduce the appeal of Android-based products to consumers," said FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller.
10/13/11 2:46 PM PT
Apple won another round in its global patents war with Samsung Wednesday when an Australian court issued an interim injunction barring the sale of Galaxy 10.1 tablets in that country.
The injunction will remain in effect until the companies settle a dispute in which Apple claims its patents were stepped on by Samsung, according to Computerworld Australia.
In airing the court's opinion, Judge Annabelle Bennett acknowledged that failing to issue the injunction would hurt Apple and issuing it would hurt Samsung, but after weighing the "balance of convenience," the scales tipped in Apple's favor.
Apple did not respond to a request by MacNewsWorld for comment on the decision.
In a statement issued following the ruling, Samsung expressed disappointment with the ruling and vowed to take all necessary measures, including legal action, in order to ensure its products are available to customers.
The company noted that it has filed a cross-claim in the Australian case contending that Apple has violated wireless technology patents belonging to Samsung.
Apple's skirmishing with Samsung over intellectual property issues is being conducted around the world. Last month, a German court banned the sale of Samsung's tablet there because it too closely resembled Apple's iPad 2. During the same period, Apple filed a lawsuit in the Netherlands to block sales of the Galaxy slate in that country. And a similar lawsuit has been filed in the United States, where a hearing on Apple's request for an injunction in that case is scheduled for today.
The Australian decision is another sign that the Android market may be contracting for device makers, according to Florian Mueller, a self-styled intellectual property activist-turned-analyst and author of the intellectual property blog FOSS Patents.
"In an effort to keep the iPhone and iPad user experience unique, Apple enforces patents as an exclusionary right as opposed to primarily seeking license fees," he explained to MacNewsWorld.
"The need to work around Apple's patents has the potential, over time, to reduce the appeal of Android-based products to consumers," he added.
Another factor that could make the Android market less attractive to device makers will be Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility.
"Third-party device makers will be disadvantaged no matter how much Google claims there will be a level playing field," he asserted.
As evidence of that, Mueller cited a passage in court documents filed in another patent case, Google v. Oracle. In a section headed "Create policies that allow us to drive the standard," Google said:
"Give early access to the software [Android OS] to partners who build and distribute devices to our specification (ie, Motorola and Verizon). They get a non-contractual time to market advantage and in return they align to our standard."
That passage, he maintained, is a "definitive confirmation of what was previously suspected: The Android source code tree has 'private branches' and some OEMs were always more equal than others."
In addition, there are signs that Android is about to be hit with royalty madness. "Other right holders such as Microsoft and Oracle at the top and various non-practicing entities at the bottom want royalties for their intellectual property," Mueller explained. "As a result, Android becomes more expensive than, for example, Windows Phone."
Collection of royalties from Android device makers amounts to a "patent tax" on handsets that can only hurt the market, according to Andreas Constantinou, managing director of VisionMobile, an analytic firm that focuses on the mobile market.
"[It] raises the minimum retail price 'floor' for Android handsets in Western markets and thereby limits the true mass market reach for Android," he told MacNewsWorld.
"Long term, patent lawsuits are a lose-lose for every party involved, including Apple and Microsoft as the patent holders, due to the legal costs and uncertainty on patent applicability on a regional basis," he argued.
He predicted that the device makers and the patent holders will eventually form a consortium to iron out the royalty situation, with norms being established for payments by the players in the market.
"Google's Motorola acquisition will also help in reducing the level of these patent taxes once this consortium is formed," he added.