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Apple wins review of tablet patent in Samsung dispute

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Incmaker of the and iPad, can pursue efforts to win a sales halt of Co (005930)’s tablet computer in the US while a patent-infringement case is pending, a US appeals court ruled.

Apple’s patent on a design of the tablet is likely to withstand validity challenges, so the trial judge should consider imposing an order that would block sales until a trial can be held, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled on Monday. The court upheld the trial judge’s rejection of a ban on Samsung products based on three other Apple patents.

The Samsung dispute is the biggest front in Apple’s efforts to curtail growth of phones that run on Inc.’s Android operating system, the most popular platform for mobile devices. Apple contends Android devices have copied features that make the iPhone and unique.

It’s filed patent-infringement suits against Android-phone makers and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.

All three companies have filed their own patent cases against Apple, creating a global war over share of a market that researcher Gartner Inc. said increased 47 percent in the fourth quarter to 149 million units worldwide.

The Cupertino, California-based smartphone maker contends Samsung has copied the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad to lure away customers. Apple and Samsung vie for the title of world’s largest maker of smartphones. Apple had 23.9 percent of the global market in the fourth quarter, while Samsung was No. 2 with 23.5 percent, according to data from Boston-based researcher Strategy Analytics.

In the tablet market, Apple had 58 percent in the fourth quarter, while Android products, which include Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook readers, had 39 per cent, the analyst group said.

The case ruled on on Monday is one of more than 30 filed in 10 countries between Samsung and Apple.

. Samsung was forced to delay the release of some Galaxy devices or alter the product in Germany, the Netherlands and Australia because of the legal battle.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said in December that Samsung had raised a substantial question of invalidity of Apple’s tablet patent. Samsung argued the tablet design was an obvious variation of tablets that existed as early as 1994, including one made by Hewlett-Packard Co.

Design Differences
The Federal Circuit said there were substantial differences between the Apple design and earlier readers whose only comparison was that they were rectangular tablets with four evenly rounded corners and a flat back.

“Rather than looking to the ‘general concept’ of a tablet, the district court should have focused on the distinctive ‘‘visual appearances’’ of the reference and the claimed design,” the court ruled.

Circuit Judge Kathleen O’Malley said she would have sent the case back to the lower court with orders to impose a ban on the sales of the Galaxy Tab. The majority said the judge could still side with Samsung after reviewing what’s in the public interest.

Apple said Galaxy S and Infuse phones copied two of its patented designs, and that all three products, along with the Droid Charge, infringed a patent for a function known as “bounce back.” That means that when an image is dragged past the final screen’s edge, it goes back to fill the entire screen. The Federal Circuit upheld Koh on her decision not to impose a ban on those patents until a trial can be held.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 12-1105, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 11-1846, U.S. District Court for the District of California (San Jose).

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