Court lifts Samsung tablet ban for most of EU

Sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 can continue everywhere in the EU except Germany, as doubts have emerged over the powers of local courts to ban foreign companies from selling goods across Europe

Samsung is allowed to sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in most of Europe again for now, but not in Germany.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung is allowed to sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in most of Europe again for now, except Germany, after a court lifted the preliminary injunction granted to Apple. Photo credit: Bonnie Cha/CNET News

Apple won a preliminary injunction against Samsung earlier this month, which stopped most EU sales, and which Samsung immediately appealed. The ban's enforcement has now been stayed as a direct result of Samsung's submission ahead of its appeal hearing against the injunction, ZDNet UK has learned. In the submission, Samsung succeeded in raising doubts about the powers of local courts to impose EU-wide sales bans on companies based outside the EU.

Apple won the preliminary injunction on 4 August, banning it from selling the Android tablet in almost all of the EU — except the Netherlands — while judges decide on a case Apple has brought against Samsung over alleged copying of the iPad design.

However, on Tuesday the Düsseldorf district court that issued the injunction lifted the ban until Samsung's appeal is heard on 25 August, except for Germany itself, where the ban stays in place.

Peter Schütz, a spokesman for the court, told ZDNet UK that Samsung had "given reasons for their appeal and these have led to doubts as to whether [German] judges are allowed to forbid a foreign company from distributing their products across the [EU]".

The court's injunction against Samsung had actually been against two entities: Samsung's main business, which is based in Korea and which sells products across the EU, and Samsung's German subsidiary, which is country specific. It is the injunction against Samsung Korea that has been lifted, while that against Samsung Germany remains in place.

Community designs

In the US, Apple has long been locked in battle with Samsung over Android-related patents, but the European action it has brought is to do with the actual appearance of the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Apple says Samsung has infringed on 'Community designs' it has for the iPad's looks.

The Community design is a type of intellectual property right that applies across the EU, which is why court decisions made in one member state reach across the Union. However, it is the application of this feature when it comes to banning foreign companies from trading that is now being questioned.

"Samsung Korea may distribute the tablet within the [EU] as long as it's not in Germany," Schütz said, explaining that the jurisprudence around the powers of the German courts in such matters was "very unclear".

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Apple used a distorted image in its European case against Samsung. The image makes the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 appear more similar than they actually are, by making the Android tablet look shorter than it is in reality.

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