Apple Succeeds in Banning Samsung’s Tablets in Australia — for Now

Apple, Inc.’s (AAPL) bid to maintain its monopoly on the tablet market via litigation advanced on Monday, when Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO:005930) announced that it would delay sales and marketing of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in Australia until a September ruling is made in the case.

I. “Free” Market?

Samsung’s attorneys, in a statement to Reuters, shared, “Today, Samsung informed the Federal Court of Australia it intends to file a cross claim against Apple Australia and Apple Inc regarding the invalidity of the patents previously asserted by Apple and also a cross claim against Apple regarding violation of patents held by Samsung by selling its iPhones and iPads.”

The tablet will be banned from sales and marketing in Australia until a final verdict is delivered on Sept. 26.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is thinner and lighter than the iPad 2.  It also has a larger, higher resolution display, more DRAM, a higher resolution camera with LED flash, and a second speaker.  Further the Galaxy Tab offers customization, widgets, and Adobe, Inc.’s (ADBE) Flash rich media platform — privileges Apple denies its users.

Despite all these seeming advantages it may never get a chance to compete with Apple’s iPad in the “free market” in many regions.  Apple claims it owns exclusive rights to the minimalist tablet design and can block any would-be competitors from entering its market.  Apple obtained these patents based on fantasy and prototypes, as it filed them five years before it released a commercial tablet.

Apple has filed suits [1][2] against Samsung in many international courts, claiming Samsung “slavishly” and illegally copied its treasured tablet design.  Apple also alleges that Samsung, via use of the Google Inc.’s (GOOG) Android operating system, violates its patents on multi-touch gestures, patents it received despite much of the covered technology being developing at non-affiliated research institutions in the 1980s (e.g. computer science researcher Myron Krueger developed the pinch-to-zoom gesture in 1983).

Samsung, meanwhile claims that Apple violates its wireless communications intellectual property.  While many of these patents also have a great deal of prior art, it should be noted that Samsung did not initiate litigation against Apple, only counter-suing after Apple tried to remove its products from the market.

II. Despite Netherlands Setback, Apple’s Monopoly Plans Move Ahead

Thus far Apple seems to have been given preferential treatment in Australia as it is allowed to continue to sell iPads and iPhones, despite Samsung’s active lawsuit against it.  Likewise in Germany, Samsung sales are currently banned, but Apple’s are not.

In the U.S., the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is currently for sale and has not been taken off the market.  Apple and Samsung will attend a U.S. International Trade Commission hearing on Oct. 13, which will decide whether to temporarily ban Samsung’s device imports into the U.S., pending a final ruling.  Almost two months later — in Dec. 3 — a second hearing will decide whether Apple’s products should receive a similar ban on imports.

In the European Union a German court has banned sales and marketing of the Galaxy Tab, pending a final ruling, which was pushed back to Sept. 9.  Initially the ban was said to cover the entire European Union, but the German court amended the scope to just Germany, as it did not have the authority to block sales in other nation states.

The German ban is especially painful for Samsung as it can’t show off the Galaxy Tab 10.1 at one of Europe’s biggest mobile trade shows, the IFA 2012, which is running Sept. 2 through 7 in Berlin.  A defiant Samsung, however, has found a way to sneak around this ruling by showing its upcoming Galaxy Tab 8.9 — a Honeycomb tablet virtually identical to the 10.1 inch model, but not listed in the Apple lawsuit.

Elsewhere in the EU, a Netherlands judge ruled that Samsung only infringed upon a single Apple patent.  The first major ruling internationally, was perceived as an overall victory for Samsung, as it gave Samsung until October to make a minor modification to Honeycomb’s built in Gallery app to remove the infringing features.  Significantly, the court ruled that Apple’s claims of design violation were invalid and that Samsung did not violate other key multi-touch patents as Apple claimed.

Reports [1][2] put Q1 and Q2 2011 tablet sales at around 22.3 million, cumulatively.  Of these, Apple has seen sales of 14 million units (appr. a 62.7 percent market share), Samsung has seen sales of 7.5 million units (33.6 percent market share), and other manufacturers have sold approximately 820,000 units (3.7 percent market share).

With Samsung gone, Apple would gain a virtually unchallenged monopoly deathgrip on the market.  And just in case pesky challengers like HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) should gain ground by Samsung departure, Apple is suing them too [1][2][3], trying to prevent their tablets from reaching the market as well.

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