Apple suit delays Samsung tablet launch
Seoul and Melbourne - Samsung Electronics has delayed the Australian launch of its latest Galaxy tablet due to a patent dispute with Apple, a setback for the South Korean company's attempt to close the gap with Apple in the booming tablet market.
Samsung and Apple have been locked in an acrimonious battle over smartphones and tablets patents and this is the first time the legal tussle has delayed the launch of a product by Samsung.
"The Australian decision obviously isn't binding in any way upon the courts in other countries, but the fact that Samsung didn't just stand up to defend the US version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 serves as an indication that Apple's allegations probably have some merit," Florian Mueller, a technology specialist and blogger on patent battles said on his blog FOSS Patents.
Samsung said that it and Apple had agreed not to sell a variant of the tablet in Australia yet.
"A Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 for the Australian market will be released in the near future. This undertaking does not affect any other Samsung smartphone or tablet available in the Australian market or other countries," the Korean company said in a statement.
The legal battle between the two companies has been building since April when Apple sued Samsung in a US federal court in California. Apple alleges the South Korean company's Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablets "slavishly" copies the iPhone and iPad. Samsung has countersued Apple.
Apple had sued Samsung in Australia, saying the company's Galaxy Tab 10.1 infringes upon 10 Apple patents. The two are fighting over patents in other courts around the world including South Korea.
Samsung's Galaxy gadgets are seen as among the biggest challengers of Apple's mobile devices, but Samsung has so far been unable to approach the Silicon Valley company's roaring sales growth. Samsung's Galaxy products use Google's Android operating system.
Last month, Samsung launched a thinner and lighter version of its Galaxy tablet in its lucrative home market, trying to eat into blockbuster sales of Apple's iPad.
"The point is, if this is contained in just Australia, then it's not going to move the needle too much," said Bryan Ma, an analyst with IDC in Singapore. "If it's just Australia, that's just a small part of the global market."
IDC said media tablet shipments to Australia were only 2.4% out of global shipments of 7.2 million units in the first quarter of the year.
Apple is one participant in a web of litigation among phone makers and software firms over who owns the patents used in smartphones, as rivals aggressively rush into the smartphone and tablet market which the U.S. company jumpstarted with iPhone and iPad.
The intensifying quarrel between Samsung and Apple had triggered expectations that some of the pair's $5bn plus (approximately R34bn) relationship may be up for grabs. Samsung counts Apple as its biggest customer and makes parts central to Apple's mobile devices.
According to Federal Court documents, an application from Apple sought to prevent Samsung from being allowed to "import, promote... offer for sale or sell in Australia the Galaxy Tab 10.1", unless it has the agreement of Apple or the court.
Samsung said it agreed not to sell the model in question in Australia.
Apple had also requested that all samples of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 be delivered to Apple so that it could destroy them, the court papers showed.
"It is not that we will not sell the Galaxy Tab until the legal case ends. We will sell it when certain conditions are met as we continue talks with Apple," said a spokesperson from Samsung.
A spokeswoman for Samsung in Australia said the original launch date in the country was 11 August but the Seoul-based spokesperson said this had not been finalised and the company was only delaying the launch event.
The next Federal Court hearing is set for 29 August.