Australian retailers will finally be able to sell the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (a tablet computer that runs on the Android operating system) that is seen as the biggest competitor to Apple’s iPad 2.
The legal stoush began back in April, when the Cupertino-based iPad 2 manufacturer filed suit against Samsung, claiming that its rival smartphone and tablet devices infringed on Apple’s intellectual property, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Apple claimed in the suit that certain design elements had been copied from its own smartphone and tablet devices.
“Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple’s technology, user interface, and innovative style in these infringing products,” read the lawsuit filed in California.
This was then followed up by a lawsuit filed in Australia on similar grounds, and Apple was able to block the sale of the Galaxy Tab thanks to a court-ordered injunction until the full proceedings had been heard. Initially, Samsung planned to sell the Galaxy Tab despite the ruling, claiming that it would release a modified version locally that would not infringe on any of Apple’s allegations, but ultimately the import of the devices was halted.
What followed was a series of additional lawsuits, as both sides started filing claims and counter-claims against each other.
According to a ZDNet report, Samsung’s counter-claims included allegations against the iPhone 3G, 3Gs, iPad 2, and an additional filing aimed at blocking the sale of the already-released iPhone 4S smartphone.
The litigation disrupted Samsung’s entire marketing strategy, with the ‘It’s Time to Tab’ (media preview event) scheduled for August being called off, and the launch of the Galaxy 10.1 Tab being postponed indefinitely.
The Australian patent dispute was only part of the global legal fight between the two giants. The original filing in the United States and similar maneuverings in Europe took center stage. At one point, Samsung was actually tendering evidence claiming Stanley Kubrick invented the tablet design in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Such events only intensified the public interest in the case and drew widespread attention to the iPad 2 rival.
Tim Renowden, the analyst at Ovum, believes the heated debate will impact the way intellectual property is understood in an industry that has always been built on a mix of cooperation and competition.
“Apple has developed a reputation for litigiousness even in the context of an industry where patent claims and counterclaims fly thick and fast,” he said. “We are unlikely to see an end to patent litigation in the mobile industry for some time, as patent portfolio wars roll on and major players squabble over caches of defensive patents from struggling competitors.”
Renowden believes that many of Apple’s claims relate to central features of the Android operating system and user interface, used by Samsung and other top manufacturers, which Google was seeking to protect when it acquired $11.9 billion worth of patents from Motorola.
“The next round of Samsung tablets is expected to have a more differentiated design, to avoid accusations of copying,” added Renowden.
“Samsung has produced a slightly modified version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Europe to avoid similar litigation there, but this may not be enough to avoid the specific patent infringement claims made by Apple in Australia, which deal with hardware, software, and user interface design elements.”
Vodafone has rushed to allow preorders for the Galaxy 10.1 Tab, claiming it is the first to offer the device, though several online retailers had been publicly flouting the ban prior to Samsung’s court victory. Apple started to flex its legal muscle to stop the sale by Australian-based retailers, with prominent entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan being one of the higher-profile scalps that buckled to pressure, according to a Delimiter report.
Samsung put out a statement promising that the Galaxy 10.1 Tab would be available before Christmas, from retailers such as Harvey Norman, HB Hi-Fi, Good Guys, Myer, Bing Lee, and Office Works. The tablet comes with a recommended retail price of $579 for the 16 GB WiFi version, and $729 for the 16 GB 3G option.
April 15 – Apple sues Samsung in a Californian court, claiming smartphones such as the Galaxy S 4G, Epic 4G, Nexus S, and the Galaxy tab violate its intellectual property rights.
August 2 – Apple files suit against Samsung in Australia, specifically targeting the Galaxy 10.1 Tab.
August 11 – The media preview event of the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tab is postponed, the launch of the actual tablet is put on hold.
September 17 – Samsung fires back with a round of counter-suits against Apple.
October 12 – Apple wins a Federal Court hearing for an injunction against the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1.
November 30 – The Federal Court of Australia reverses the ban on the Galaxy 10.1 Tab. The launch and sale of the tablet is delay while Apple seeks to leave to appeal to the High Court.
December 9 – The High Court of Australia turns down Apple’s appeal. Samsung launches the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia.