Samsung bites Apple with Japanese court win as global war continues

A LEGAL ruling in Japan has handed Samsung a small counter-strike against Apple in the global patent war raging between the two mobile phone giants.

Following last week’s crushing court victory by the US technology giant, judges in Japan have dismissed claims that Samsung illegally used synchronisation technology developed by Apple in the South Korean company’s Galaxy smartphones and tablet computers.

Apple had been seeking damages of more than £800,000, but has instead been ordered to pay all of Samsung’s legal costs.

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“Samsung has strongly asserted that its technology is altogether different and does not infringe on Apple patents,” the company said after the judges’ verdict. “The ruling recognises the legitimacy of Samsung’s assertions and is highly valid.”

Yesterday’s ruling is the first in a series of complaints being brought by Apple against Samsung in Japan, where such cases tend to be tried separately, based on individual patents.

The country is one of ten where the two are pursuing each other through the courts on dozens of intellectual property claims. The biggest of these so far has been in the US, where last week a California jury ordered Samsung to pay its rival $1 billion (£650m) in damages – the largest sum ever awarded in a patent infringement case.

That was closely followed by a split-decision in Samsung’s home territory, where South Korean judges found Apple to be illegally using Samsung’s wireless technology, but also said that Samsung violated its rival’s patented “bounce back” scrolling effect. Both companies had some of their products banned as a result.

On the back of the record-breaking ruling in California, Apple is trying to halt sales of eight Samsung smartphones in the US. Arguments will be made at a hearing on 6 December, where Samsung will also seek to have last week’s jury verdict overturned.

Samsung’s victory in Japan does not pull it level with Apple. For both companies, the Japanese market represents a far smaller proportion of sales than that of the US. However, it clearly signals that the scramble for supremacy in the fast-growing field of handheld computing is far from over.

Samsung is the world’s largest seller of smartphones, followed by Apple in the number two slot. Between them, they control a little more than half of the global smartphone market.

Their legal disputes began in earnest in April 2011 when Apple filed its US lawsuit. The fight has since expanded into countries such as Australia – where Apple has lost its bid to ban sales of the Galaxy tablet – and Germany, where courts are considering cases that would affect sales across much of the EU.

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The legal barrage from Apple is widely seen as a proxy battle against the Android platform that the late Steve Jobs described as product “stolen” from his company.

However, recent reports have suggested that his successor, Apple chief executive Tim Cook, is in discussions with Google counterpart Larry Page about a range of intellectual property issues. Android software has been owned outright by Google since 2005.