Apple has won a significant victory against alleged copycat Samsung as a German court granted a preliminary injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 on Tuesday. The injunction was based on claims that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 copied the iPad's design, which is registered with the European Union. The ruling applies immediately in Germany, but Apple could have the injunction granted EU-wide, seriously hampering Samsung's worldwide sales of the Honeycomb-powered device.
Apple originally went after Samsung for "blatantly copying" the hardware and UI designs used in the iPhone and iPad for its Android-powered smartphones and tablets. Among the charges in the original US lawsuit, Apple cited patent infringement, design patent infringement, trademark violation, and trade dress violation.
"Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple's technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products," Apple wrote in its complaint.
Samsung fired back with lawsuits in Asia, Europe, and the US, though Samsung recently consolidated its claims against Apple in the US into a defense against Apple's original complaint.
Apple was granted early access to upcoming Samsung products, including its Galaxy S II smartphone and iPad-like Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet. After reviewing those products, Apple piled on more infringement claims against Samsung, eventually filing for a preliminary injunction barring Samsung from selling a range of smartphones and tablets in the US.
All told, Apple and Samsung filed complaints in 11 courts in 9 countries, including Germany, France, UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Most recently, Apple was granted a preliminary injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, prompting Samsung to delay the launch of the device there.
Today's ruling by the Landgericht Düsseldorf was based on alleged violation of a European Community design registration for the iPad. Samsung must immediately halt sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany, but because the registration is filed with the EU, the injunction can be enforced in nearly every EU member country. Intellectual property analyst Florian Müller noted that there may be some procedural work on Apple's part to make that happen, but we have no doubt that Apple will take full advantage of its right to do so. The one exception is the Netherlands, which has intellectual property laws that differ enough to warrant a separate case currently working its way through a Dutch court.
Competition between Apple and Samsung has increased significantly, as Samsung's Galaxy S and Galaxy S II smartphones have helped propel a five-fold increase in smartphone sales. Nokia's lethargic attempt to modernize its smartphone platform and Apple's continuing stellar sales of the iPhone 4 have made Apple the top smartphone vendor, but Samsung's incredible growth has put it just a point shy of Apple's 18.5 percent smartphone market share.
In a similar vein, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is perhaps the first credible competition to Apple's market-dominating iPad. An EU-wide injunction, along with a delayed Australia launch, will seriously hamper the device's worldwide rollout.
Federal Judge Lucy Koh is expected to rule on Apple's request for a preliminary US injunction in mid-October.