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Apple Legal Victory: Court Blocks Samsung Tablet in Europe [Update]

In a stunning and painful decision for Samsung, Apple (AAPL) got a German court to issue a preliminary injunction against the Galaxy Tab. According to patent analyst and blogger Florian Mueller, that means Samsung cannot for the time being sell its tablet in the entire European Union, except for the Netherlands.

Here's what Mueller relays from German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa):

Apple alleged that the Galaxy Tab imitates the iPad and infringes on various intellectual property rights owned by Apple. Apple asked the Landgericht (district court) of Düsseldorf, Germany, to order an injunction under which Samsung is threatened with fines of up to EUR 250,000 (US$ 350,000) for each violation or imprisonment of Samsung's management in the event of continued infringement. Those are standard sanctions under German tort law for contempt of a preliminary injunction.
Because Germany is part of the EU, the ruling carries beyond its national borders. That means no sales in Germany, France, England, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, and the rest of the 27 member countries other than the Netherlands.

This is an extraordinarily deep blow to Samsung on a number of fronts:

  • It loses revenue that it might otherwise gain.
  • Lowering the number of sales reduces the chance of getting the economies of scale necessary to approach and maintain the iPad's pricing.
  • The move slows Samsung in its attempt to get market adoption, putting it even further behind Apple.
The patent wars seem remote to many and probably nothing but a tousle in which only the lawyers win. But what Apple has wanted from the EU and other courts and legal venues, including the International Trade Commission in the U.S. and Australian courts (where Apple has delayed Samsung's entry) is to completely shut down competition in any way possible.

Although Samsung can appeal, the injunction stays in place in the meantime. But Apple plays a dangerous game, because other vendors, including Samsung, might well find grounds to block the iPad in the same way. And thus, we see innovation grind to a halt as grasping and desperate companies do anything in their power to own markets and avoid competition.

[Update: Samsung gets a partial reprieve, as a German court says that it can resume selling the Galaxy Tab in Europe except for Germany. Although getting the rest of Europe back is no small matter, Germany is a huge market. Also, the reprieve is only temporary until Apple and Samsung meet in court on August 25. After that, it is conceivable that the ban could be back on.]


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