Samsung scores U.S. patent win over Apple

Samsung notched an important legal victory over Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in the companies' long-running patent dispute when a federal judge blocked Apple's request for a preliminary injunction to bar the U.S. sale of Samsung's Galaxy products.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh blocked Apple's request pending the outcome of a trial on the patent dispute, which is scheduled to start in July. The ruling wasn't much of a surprise since U.S. courts have rarely ordered the removal of products from the market in patent cases. However, the legal spat also drew in wireless carriers, including Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and T-Mobile USA, which argued in September that a ban on the sale of Samsung devices would hurt their holiday sales and mobile broadband adoption.

Judge Koh said Apple's case did not meet the legal bar for pulling Samsung's products from the market. "Although Apple has established a likelihood of success on the merits at trial, there remain close questions regarding infringement of the accused devices, and Samsung has raised substantial questions regarding the validity" of one of the four Apple patents in the case, her 65-page ruling said.

The legal battle between the two smartphone titans has escalated since Apple first sued Samsung in April for copying its iPhone and iPad. The companies are now locked in dozens of patent disputes stretching from California to Europe to Australia.

Meanwhile, there will likely be more legal fireworks this week between Apple and HTC. The U.S. International Trade Commission, which has the power to bar the importation of products that infringe on companies' patents, is set to issue a final ruling Tuesday in a case between Apple and HTC. The stakes are high in that case, since HTC gets more than half of its revenue from the U.S. market. A defeat for HTC could lead to a ban on imports into the U.S., while a victory could score HTC favorable settlement terms from Apple.

The Apple-HTC case is widely seen as a proxy fight between Apple and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was so incensed with Google's Android platform and what he perceived as Android's copying of the iPhone that he threatened to go to "thermonuclear war" with Google over it, according to an excerpt from an authorized biography of the late executive.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article

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