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One more development in the legal fight between Samsung and Apple: a court in Australia has granted a March date for a case being brought by Samsung against Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) for patent infringement, with Samsung’s aim being to get the iPhone 4S banned from sale, unless the two sides reach a licensing settlement.
The news follows a surprising back-step from Samsung yesterday, when it indicated that it would no longer seek to ban the iPhone 4S from sale in its home market of South Korea.
Samsung has been banned in Australia from selling its 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab (pictured), an Android tablet, after Apple successfully got an injunction on the device in October on the grounds that it infringed its patents. Before that, the device had already been held back from sales voluntarily by Samsung until the case got resolved. That case is still making its way through the courts, but it looks like Samsung will have missed the crucial holiday sales season for the tablet.
Samsung is hoping to gain some leverage in what looks like a grim situation for the company in Australia by counterattacking Apple with its own claims of patent infringements. The justice presiding over the various Samsung/Apple suits in the country, Annabelle Bennett, agreed to a March date for Samsung’s trial. That doesn’t sound like it’s coming very soon, but it is significantly earlier than August, which is when Apple hoped the case would be heard.
That will also mean that the Australian case will come before the judges before a similar case gets heard in the United States, likely in May.
A couple of other notable details emerged in the hearing in Sydney today where the court date got named:
— According to Bloomberg, Samsung’s lawyer, Neil Young, said that the two sides actually had a good relationship until last April, about a month after Apple announced the iPad 2, and a couple of months after Samsung first debuted its 10.1 tablet. Before April, apparently the two sides had an “informal policy” to refrain from litigating against each other for patent infringements. Presumably, as the two sides realized how competitive they had become against each other in these emerging markets, they began to jump and get more trigger happy.
— Young also noted that Apple is the only “major player” that has not obtained patent licenses from Samsung. He didn’t mention the other companies involved, though.
This may be connected to the same FRAND discussion that the two sides are having in Europe. Samsung made a similar claim against Apple in Europe over older iOS products. In that case Apple claims that it does have a license, via a deal with Intel/Infineon. In the more recent device in question here, the chip supplier is Qualcomm.
— Finally, Young also made a request on behalf of Samsung that Apple’s patents on touchscreens, sliding to unlock, “scroll bounce” and scrolling photos all be revoked: the claim is that these technologies are not new.
For those Aussies really keen to get their hands on a Galaxy Tab, however, there is one last retailer that continues to sell the device, claiming that he is circumnavigating the injunction legally because he actually distributes and ships the devices from outside the country.
Wojtek Czarnocki, who runs the online store Dmavo.com.au, appears to be the last remaining reseller distributing the device, according to The Australian. There had been others, but the rest have caved into Apple’s objections to the loophole.