Galaxy Tab ban overturned in Australia

The Federal Court of Australia has overturned the preliminary injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in a stunning verdict read to the Federal Court this afternoon.

update The Federal Court of Australia has overturned the preliminary injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in a stunning verdict read to the Federal Court this afternoon.

The unanimous decision made by Federal Court Justices John Dowsett, Lindsay Foster and David Yates ordered that the injunction made by Justice Annabelle Bennett be overturned, allowing the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to be released in Australia.

In a surprise move, however, Apple legal counsel Stephen Burley SC then sought a stay of the orders handed down by Justice Foster so that an appeal against the overturning of the injunction could be heard before the High Court of Australia.

Naturally, Samsung had strong objections to the stay of orders.

"This order serves to prolong the injustice held against Samsung," the Korean gadget-maker's representatives told Justice Foster today, adding that any stay or appeal to the High Court would see Samsung crippled in the upcoming Christmas shopping season.

"Any stay, no matter how short, given the [impending] ... Christmas season would prove further hardship to Samsung."

Justice Foster conceded to the orders proposed by Apple and issued a stay of orders until 4pm (AEDST) on Friday so that Apple could file its appeal in the High Court of Australia.

Samsung said in a statement that it was pleased with the outcome of the case, despite the stay of orders awarded to Apple.

"Samsung Electronics Australia is pleased with today’s unanimous decision by the Federal Court to lift the preliminary injunction on sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. We believe the ruling clearly affirms that Apple’s legal claims lack merit.

"We will make an announcement regarding the market availability of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia shortly," Samsung added.

The availability of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will all come down to what happens in Friday's court proceedings. Samsung Australia's head of telecommunications previously told the court during his cross-examination that the Korean-based gadget maker could have the Tab 10.1 on Aussie shelves within a week of the injunction being overturned.

Apple reiterated its statement made at the commencement of the case.

"It's no coincidence that Samsung's latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging. This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas," Apple said in a statement.

Apple won a preliminary injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in October after a trimmed down version of the original case was heard. Justice Annabelle Bennett told the court that if the case ever went to full trial, Apple would likely walk out with a victory over Samsung based on the evidence it had submitted so far. She added, however, that no matter which side she came down on, one party was likely to sustain heavy damage in the market.

The temporary injunction meant that Samsung was restricted from promoting the device, taking pre-orders, shipping to sales channels or even generating interest in the Tab 10.1 until the case had been resolved.

Samsung said it was disappointed with the verdict and 14 days later, started an appeal against the decision before the full bench of the Federal Court of NSW. The full bench heard Samsung's claims that the original ruling was incorrect and that it ought to be overturned.

The court also heard from Samsung's lawyers that its rivals including Acer, Asus and Motorola sell tablets that operate in a similar fashion to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and to an extent, the iPad, too. It remains unclear whether Samsung was looking to drag other parties into the case or shore up its own legal defence with this evidence.

Galaxy Tabs compared

The re-designed Galaxy Tab 10.1N (above) and the disputed Galaxy Tab 10.1 (below)
(Credit: Mobiflip.de)

Australian shoppers dead-set on getting the Galaxy Tab 10.1 were still able to get their hands on the banned device, however, via several online importers. DMavo, Kogan Technologies and Mobicity were originally importing the devices before Apple served a cease and desist order on all three. DMavo was the only tablet importer to refuse Apple's order to stop importing the devices, labelling Apple's demands as outrageous. According to DMavo, Apple's demands also included a requirement that the company hand over all data on customers who had purchased one of the tablets from the importer.

Meanwhile, Samsung had sought to dodge the Galaxy Tab 10.1 ban elsewhere by redesigning the device and labelling it the Galaxy Tab 10.1N. The 10.1N seemed to be a ray of light in the case for Samsung before Apple today sought to also ban that device in the German court.

Locally, Apple's legal representatives have continually expressed concern over the possibility of Samsung redesigning the Tab 10.1 and relaunching it under a different name to dodge the Australian injunction. Justice Bennett said at an earlier directions hearing that Samsung could be held at its word as a major international corporation that it would do no such thing in Australia.

Despite today's verdict, Apple and Samsung aren't finished with their litigation, with Samsung's cross-claim attempt to ban the iPhone 4S set for a hearing in March next year.

Updated at 3:41pm, 30 November 2011: added comment from Apple and Samsung.

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