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Apple wins injunction against Samsung in Australia, could stop more Android devices there

by Phil Hornshaw

In their ongoing fight to ban each other’s products from being sold all over the world, Apple has struck another major blow against Samsung, this time with a preliminary injunction against its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia.

The injunction is a temporary ban on Galaxy Tab sales pending a full-blowing hearing by Australia’s court over patents upon which Apple claims Samsung has infringed. That could be a while, but the full case could have a bigger effect on the future of Android devices in the future, according to patent activist Florian Mueller. If Apple wins in Australia, he argues, it might shut the door on any new Android devices going to market there.

Apple and Samsung going at it is hardly a new thing, and Apple has won some heavy victories in the battle so far. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 was also banned in Germany after a similar injunction, and courts in The Netherlands found some of Samsung’s smartphones to be in violation of Apple patents in that country.

Those court cases have been painful for Samsung, but they haven’t spelled doom. The company is actively trying to fight back against Apple and have its iPhone 4S banned in South Korea, Italy and France by suing for patent infringement of its own, and is countersuing in Australia. Samsung claims it should be able to hold Apple at bay, as its patents concern fundamentals of smartphone technology, namely, the phone part.

But Apple’s victory in Australia could be just as profound. The patents that the Australian courts are favoring Apple on concern touchscreen technology, and are technological innovation patents rather than technical design ones, which have won Apple injunctions in other countries. That means that the rulings in Australia aren’t specific to just the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Mueller reports, but could easily be extrapolated to any Android device. Here’s a quote from Mueller’s FOSS Patents blog:

If Apple wins the Australian case at the end of the main proceeding, all Android-based products will effectively be shut out of the Australian market forever, unless Google or its device maker partners settle with Apple. Therefore, Google and Samsung will have to fight very hard to have the asserted patents declared invalid, or at least have their scope narrowed.

That’s a pretty horrific scenario for the Android camp in Australia. If Apple is victorious there – and if Google and Samsung don’t find a way to settle with the company before things get really out of hand – who knows how Android device makers will be able to continue to compete in the country.

All is not lost, however, and a preliminary injunction is not a full ruling. Google and Samsung will likely be working hard to get the scope of the patent infringement limited as much as possible, even if they can’t win the case against Apple in Australia. That way, a ruling in Apple’s favor won’t mean the death of Android in the country altogether.