Samsung just got a gift from the top of its wish list. Australia’s high court has lifted the ban on its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, just in time for holiday sales. The ruling ended a legal dispute with Apple over alleged patent violations.
The saga began in April when Apple launched legal actions against Samsung in several countries, claiming the Galaxy Tab 10.1 copied the iPad and that Samsung had copied iPhone design elements in its smartphones. Samsung countersued. The suits and countersuits have been fought in 10 countries, including Germany, Japan, Italy, Australia, the United States and France.
Both companies have racked up some wins and losses. A number of Samsung products have been banned from sale in Germany. A French court on Thursday rejected Samsung’s request for a ban on the iPhone 4S phone. In late November, a U.S. court rejected Apple’s request for a temporary injunction of sales on Samsung devices in the United States.
Small but Meaningful Market
While Australia my not be Samsung’s most important market, the lifting of the ban by the high court is a significant ruling. The Australian suit has been a closely watched battle in the Samsung/Apple war.
“In terms of shipments, Australia is not a game changer, but it does create a precedent they can carry to other countries,” said Michael Morgan, senior analyst, mobile devices, at ABI Research.
While each country has its own laws and court system, the Australia ruling is still a positive sign for Samsung.
“For Apple, it’s not a critical market, but it does show that the lawsuit tactic may not win and hold an injunction,” Morgan told the E-Commerce Times.
Apple may have to face real competition from the Galaxy Tab 10.1, he noted. It is the tablet that most closely matches the iPad, most notably in its size.
“It’s a directly competitive product,” Morgan said.
Battle Will Rage On
The timing of the ruling couldn’t be better. The Galaxy Tab will hit the shelves with two or three weeks of peak shopping remaining.
“This ruling is very important for Samsung, especially during the Christmas season,” Laura DiDio, principal analyst at ITIC, told the E-Commerce Times. “I’m sure they’re singing ‘Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells.'”
Once the holiday joy subsides, the patent war will likely continue in full zeal. A good number of countries have still not ruled.
“I don’t expect Apple to give up,” said DiDio. “This battle will continue.”
Apple may not fare well — particularly in Europe, where there is substantial bias against U.S. enterprises, according to DiDio.
“The EC has never been overly sympathetic to American companies,” she said. “They could favor Samsung over Apple.”
When the dust settles, it’s likely we will see that Apple has not been able to halt the march of iPad lookalikes, DiDio opined.
“It will be hard for Apple to get a ruling anywhere in the world that throws Galaxy out,” she said. “Yet Apple will keep up the pressure. Apple has more money in the bank than Samsung.”
Is Fire the Real Danger?
While Apple has been aggressive in facing off Samsung, a tougher adversary may have galloped into town.
“The Kindle Fire is coming in the back door,” said Morgan. “The Fire is Apple’s greatest threat.”
Amazon’s tablet may not be as powerful as the iPad, but it has the advantage of being tied into the Amazon ecosystem, he pointed out.
Amazon may indeed cut more deeply into Apple’s revenue than Samsung, said DiDio.
“How many Galaxy Tabs have been sold? It’s a negligible number compared to 25 million iPads,” she said.
It’s the Fire that could put a real dent in Apple’s sales, noted DiDio.
“They have to be worried about entry-level devices like the Kindle Fire,” she said. “People will go for the (US)$199 tablets. If I were Apple, I’d think about coming out with an e-reader — something inexpensive that can’t do everything.”
Apple and Samsung did not respond to our requests to comment for this story.