A Dutch court has sided with Apple and banned the sale of Samsung Galaxy smart phones in Europe -- prompting Samsung to quickly change the phones in question. It's the latest salvo in the current war over mobile phone design and patents between various companies.
The court granted the injunction to Apple, forcing the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Ace phones to be pulled from sale in the next seven weeks. Apple is embroiled in legal action with Samsung over the Galaxy Tab tablet looking too similar to the Apple iPad, but this case is subtly different, as it refers only to the way the photo gallery app works.
The injunction was granted because the court feels the way you swipe and scroll through photos infringes one of Apple's patents, numbered EP2058868. The injunction applies in every country that recognises the patent, prompting Samsung to waste no time in announcing it would change the app.
The reason Samsung is keen to avoid a ruling against it in the Netherlands is because many of its products pass through the Dutch port of Rotterdam -- so such a ruling would affect distribution across the continent and not just in the land of clogs, windmills and recreational herb intake.
But the wider significance of the Dutch ruling is that it refers to the software on the Ace and S2 rather than the phones themselves -- which is the Android software used by many other phones and tablets made by Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson, LG, Asus and many more. In theory Apple could pursue them all, and even Google, the company behind Android.
Any company dragging its feet about updating to Android Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich should pay attention now, as an update to the newest versions of Android dodges the legal bullet.
The Galaxy Tab tablet hasn't been lumped in with the offending devices, so won't be affected by the ruling. The Tab 10.1 remains banned in Germany, however, over claims by Apple that it borrows a little too heavily from the iPad's look and feel, right down to the packaging. The German court will rule this week on the Tab case, and may choose to apply the decision to the whole of Europe.
The Tab was briefly banned across Europe after only a week on sale, giving a taste of the possible consequences for Samsung if Apple is successful in its legal manoeuvrings. If Samsung wins, however, it'll be able to claim a chunk of lost earnings out of Apple's vast cash stockpile.
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