South Korea Bans Devices From Both Apple And Samsung

Galaxy S II, iPhone 4 and twelve other devices banned from sale

On Friday, the Seoul Central District Court ruled that Apple and Samsung have both infringed on each other’s patents. In an unusual turn of events, it fined both companies and banned sales of fourteen products, including Samsung’s Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab, and Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad 2.

This ruling – which covers older products from both companies, rather than their latest devices, comes just days before a jury decides the outcome of a $2.5 billion (£1.58b) court battle between the same companies in the US.

Everyone’s a loser

In April 2011, Apple sued Samsung in the US, accusing the company of “copying” its designs. Samsung, in turn, sued the iPhone manufacturer in its home country of South Korea, claiming that Apple was using its technology patents without a license.

This became a part of a broader campaign, with Apple and Samsung suing each other in nine different countries, including Germany, Japan, Great Britain and Australia.

“There are lots of external design similarities between the iPhone and Galaxy S, such as rounded corners and large screens … but these similarities had been documented in previous products,” said one of the judges, as reported by Reuters.

The court had decided that the phones looked “different”, and it was unlikely that consumers would confuse the Galaxy with the iPhone. If it wasn’t obvious enough, the huge logos on the back of the devices were a definite giveaway.

However, the situation with the patents was not as clear. The court found that Apple infringed on two of Samsung’s wireless technology patents, while Samsung was copying Apple’s patented bounce-back scrolling feature.

The three-judge panel had ordered companies to pay minor damages, but decided to ban the sales of ten Samsung and four Apple devices, including the iPhone 4. It should be noted that none of the banned products are flagship devices.

According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, Samsung has treated the outcome as a victory. “We welcome today’s ruling, which affirms our position that Apple has been using our mobile telecommunications standards patents without having obtained the necessary licenses. Equally important, today’s ruling also affirmed our position that one single company cannot monopolize generic design features,” the company said in an email statement.

It was also previously reported that Samsung cherishes media exposure which accompanies such high-profile court cases, treating it like a marketing exercise.

The verdict in a similar, but more expensive lawsuit filed in San Jose,California, is expected this weekend. In the US, Apple is demanding more than $2.5 billion in damages to compensate for seven counts of patent infringement, and an order to permanently ban Samsung from selling some of its products. Samsung argues that Apple owes it $422 million (£266m) for violating five patents.

Some experts have suggested that Apple’s litigation might eventually ruin it, drawing parallels with an 80s software powerhouse Ashton-Tate.

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