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Samsung fails to get Apple banned in The Netherlands, other EU suits could fail too

by Phil Hornshaw

Samsung and Apple continue to duke it out in courts over patent issues, but Samsung’s bid to strike back at Apple in The Netherlands has been denied.

The Android device maker has had three of its smartphones banned by Dutch courts for infringing on Apple’s patents for its iPhone line, forcing Samsung to release upgraded versions in the country to keep sales flowing. But Samsung also promised to fight fire with fire and sue Apple with patent suits of its own when the iPhone 4S was launched. But its Dutch suit has failed to result in an injunction against any of Apple’s uber-popular devices, according to Reuters.

Samsung had sued to stop the sale of any Apple items using 3G technology in the country, but a court in The Hague dismissed the company’s claims of patent infringement. It dismissed Apple’s counterclaims in the case as well. Despite Samsung failing to win a meaningful victory against Apple – which has been kicking the tar out of the Korean device manufacturer in the courts, winning bans in Germany and Australia as well as The Netherlands – it might actually be a good thing Samsung didn’t win here.

Independent patent activist Florien Mueller says that not ruling in Samsung’s favor may have done more to protect all device manufacturers in The Netherlands and the European Union than banning Apple might have. The court ruled that the 3G patents Samsung claimed Apple was violating were part of the widespread understanding of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms of the patents (also known as FRAND in legal terms). The ruling states that the patents Samsung owns are essential to cellular products to be able to work. Therefore, Apple and Samsung should seek a deal for licensing. If the ruling had gone the other way (with Apple banned), it would have effectively given Samsung ownership of 3G in The Netherlands.

When Samsung rattled its saber a few weeks ago and claimed it would be working to take on Apple in the courts, it mentioned patents regarding the phone part of Apple’s iPhones. It seems as though these 3G patents may have been what the company was referring to, and if so, the ruling is further bad news for Samsung. It has similar suits going in Italy and France, but The Hague ruling will likely act as a precedent that gets its other suits dismissed, as well.

So it appears as though Samsung, and the greater Android enclave, is going to need a different mode of attack if they want to beat back the advance of Apple, both in stores and in the courts. Meanwhile, Apple continues to march on with its lawsuits that could continue to handicap Android device makers in several countries, especially in Australia.

In a slight win for Samsung though, Apple failed to get an injunction against the company launching any new tablets in Australia before its full hearing. Apple already won a big ban against Samsung products in the country, but this would have stopped any new Samsung tablets as well. Samsung still needs a big win in the actual hearing, but at least in the meantime, it hasn’t been shut down in Australia entirely yet.