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Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has gained another victory in its ongoing worldwide legal battle against Samsung. The Korean giant says it will not seek to block sales of the iPhone 4S in its home market, for fears of attracting bad PR.
That represents a turnaround in the company’s position: Samsung had earlier said it would attempt to block the launch of new Apple products on its home turf.
The news comes to us by way of the Korean daily The Chosunilbo, which quotes an unnamed senior Samsung executive: “We concluded that we should engage in legal battles with Apple only in the global market, but not in order to gain more market share in Korea.”
The brief report also notes that the decision was made at the last minute and was “driven by public relations concerns,” without further elaboration.
However, it’s unclear at this point whether PR concerns were really at the heart of this decision, or if it was motivated by something else.
Samsung has up to now filed official requests to block the iPhone in four markets — Australia, France, Italy and Japan — and had vowed to take that fight to more territories, naming Korea specifically as a battleground.
Apple and Samsung have been suing each other in over 20 courts worldwide, with Apple claiming that Samsung infringes on its designs as well as patents in its Android devices; Samsung has been on the attack as well, claiming that Apple has infringed on technology and design patents, too.
So far, Samsung has seen a few setbacks. Temporary injunctions have been granted on its Galaxy devices in Australia and Germany, and a possible third could come into effect in the Netherlands, and Samsung has not managed to get any injunctions against Apple in turn (one, in Germany, might come into effect if Apple does not provide adequate defense against itself: it failed to show up for a scheduled court date). In one of its central arguments around patent infringements of its radio patents, Samsung is getting investigated over whether it has abused FRAND regulations (which provides for Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory access to central patents).
Samsung still counts Apple as a key customer in the area of device components, a business relationship that has yet to be touched by the many disagreements that the two companies have over devices, and everyone (including the management of Samsung, perhaps) is watching to see whether that relationship will sour as a result of all this legal action.
Up to now, PR hasn’t really been a factor one way or the other so far in how either company has approached their dispute — but you could argue that neither side has had a full PR win out of it.
Apple has a tendency to appear too big and bullying in its Android offense (especially when it concerns small tablet makers); and Samsung has been marked with the injunction brush, giving some consumers the impression that it has been copying even if the case is undecided.