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Samsung Finds Better Luck Fighting Apple in Japan

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Aug 31, 2012 12:01 PM PT

In a development that may alleviate some of the pain Samsung's feeling after a U.S. court ruled that it had infringed several Apple patents, a court in Japan has ruled against Apple in a similar case there.

Samsung Finds Better Luck Fighting Apple in Japan

Tokyo District Judge Tamotsu Shoji decided that various Samsung mobile devices did not infringe Apple's patent for syncing music and video data with PCs on which Samsung's Kies software is installed, Bloomberg reported.

The judge ordered Apple to pay the costs of the lawsuit after reportedly stating that it's hard to believe the products in question belong to the range of Apple's technologies.

The court in Tokyo also reportedly rejected an injunction requested by Apple that would prevent Samsung from offering eight models of its Galaxy family of products in Japan.

Apple and the Courts

A jury in California recently found that Samsung had infringed on Apple's patents on physical design and user interfaces relating to the iPhone, iPad and iPod. It awarded Apple just over US$1 billion in damages. However, the jury found that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 did not infringed any physical iPad design patents, contrary to Apple's claims.

Apple and Samsung are now fighting over the former's attempt to have eight Samsung smartphones banned from import into the U.S. and Samsung's request to lift a preliminary ban on U.S. sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Courts outside of the U.S. have taken a different view of patent infringement. A South Korean court last week dismissed Apple's claim that Samsung copied the iPhone's and iPad's look and feel. It did find, however, that both parties had violated some of each other's patents, and banned some products from both firms.

Various German courts have ruled in favor of Apple in its patent dispute with Samsung. A British court ruled that Samsung's Galaxy tablets were not "cool" enough to be confused with the iPad and ordered Cupertino to publish a statement on its own website and in the UK media stating that Samsung did not copy the iPad. The judge stayed the publication order until Apple's appeal is heard in October.

"Laws and their interpretation are different in every country," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told MacNewsWorld. "And different jurisdictions have different approaches to IP law. Asians are a bit more liberal to copying in general."

The impact of the Japanese court's ruling is uncertain because "judges aren't easy to predict in this field, but juries are even more unpredictable," Florian Mueller, founder of the Fosspatents blog, told MacNewsWorld.

By July, Apple and Samsung were fighting each other in 50 lawsuits in courts worldwide.

The Impact on Apple's Patent Suits

However, Samsung might benefit still more from the Japanese court's ruling because "up until now, it looked like most of the rulings were in favor of Apple, which put Samsung in a difficult position," Enderle said. The Japanese court's ruling "creates balance" and is a "major blow for Apple." On the other hand, the U.S. is Apple's core market, so a ruling on Apple's home turf outranks those in Japan and Korea "significantly."

Samsung's victory is "only a defensive win -- not an offensive one," Mueller pointed out. It doesn't give Samsung any leverage over Apple and "is not even a particularly significant setback since Apple has so many other claims pending around the globe."

Samsung "needs to win and enforce injunctions over some of its own patents against Apple" but has not achieved this in any country except Korea, Mueller said.

Playing the System?

Rumblings that Apple leveraged the badly broken U.S. patent system have begun to surface.

"Yes, the patent system is broken, but Apple had the law on their side," Enderle countered. "You have to use the laws to your favor."

Experts have been urging patent reform for years, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in June launched a patent reform project.

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