German Court Set to Rule Friday on Apple-Samsung European Tablet Wars

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Samsung currently faces fines of up to $355,000 if it sells or markets its Galaxy Tab 7.7 or 10.1 models in Germany.

COLOGNE, Germany - The tablet wars between Samsung and Apple will come to a head this week when a German court will decide if the designs of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Tab 10.1 computers are too close to that of Apple's iPad and iPhone. Samsung pulled its recently unveiled Galaxy Tab 7.7 off displays at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin after a court in Dusseldorf granted Apple a second injunction banning the sale and marketing of the product. Samsung had presented the Tab 7.7 to journalists earlier but quickly stripped its stand of any sign of the computer, even removing promotional material. The Dusseldorf court issued a similar injunction covering the Tab 10.1 in August. Under the injunction Samsung can be fined up to $355,000 (€250,000) per incident for marketing or selling either of the tablet devices in Germany.

Apple accuses Samsung of "slavishly" copying the design and packaging of its products. Apple filed suit against Samsung in the U.S. in April. Samsung has countersued Apple in California, Germany, Japan and South Korea. In the Netherlands, a preliminary court last month ordered Samsung to halt some sales of its smartphones after Oct. 13 but did not extend the ban to tablet computers.

On Friday, the Dusseldorf court will decide to uphold or drop the injunction. It will also rule if its legal jurisdiction extends beyond Germany to cover most of the European Union. The court originally ruled the ban should apply to 26 of the 27 countries in the EU. At issue is whether Samsung, headquarted in South Korea, is liable to a European court.

"In general, in cases like this, the court should have jurisdiction across the entire EU," a court spokesman told THR. "The key issue is if Samsung Germany is considered a subsidiary of the Samsung's head office in South Korea. If it's a subsidiary, then the injunction should apply across Europe. If not, then it may be restricted just to Germany or to sales by Samsung Germany in Europe."

Either Apple or Samsung can appeal Friday's ruling to the state regional appellate court. A final ruling could take several months.In the meantime, Samsung could lose ground to Apple in the fast-growing European tablet market. In Germany alone, tablet computer sales are estimated to reach 2.4 million units this year, quadruple the 0.6 million sold last year. Samsung doesn't reveal how many tablets it has sold but a report by Strategy Analytics put Samsung's share of the tablet market at 16 per cent for the first quarter of this year, compared to 69 percent for Apple's iPad.

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