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Apple loses latest round in Android patent fight

Apple came up short in the latest twist in the seemingly endless Android patent saga, as a Dutch court ruled today that Samsung's Galaxy Tab can be sold in the Netherlands and distributed throughout the European Union.

Essentially, the Gerechthof's-Gravenhage appeals court in the Hague upheld an earlier decision made by a lower Dutch court that ruled Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablets did not infringe upon Apple's patents related to the iPad and could thus be sold in the Netherlands.

TIMLINE: Patent madness! A timeline of the Android patent wars 

BACKGROUND: Dutch court slams brakes on Samsung Android phone sales in Europe

Although the ruling means the Galaxy Tab will continue to be sold in the EU, it does not affect the EU-wide preliminary injunction against the Samsung Galaxy smartphone that a lower Dutch court issued last year. Patent blogger Florian Mueller noted today that the latest ruling in favor of Samsung comes just a week before a German court is slated to rule on whether to lift that preliminary injunction and thus clear the Galaxy smartphone to be sold throughout the EU. Mueller also said that the upcoming rulings will be crucial in determining just how much protection Apple will get from competitors that design products similar to its own.

"[T]he two companies need the courts in various jurisdictions to clarify where Apple's exclusive scope of protection ends and Samsung's freedom to compete begins," Mueller writes. "There's no mathematical formula based on which they could simply agree that Samsung's products are allowed to have a degree of similarity of up to (for example) 70%. Instead, they need guidance from judges."

This week's court ruling was a big win for Samsung, which had already voluntarily agreed to stop selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia last year until it resolved its patent disputes with Apple. In a statement issued today, the company said that the ruling "again demonstrates that Apple's products simply do not warrant the intellectual property protections it believes."

Apple, Microsoft and other big tech companies have been suing manufacturers that create and sell devices based on Google's Android operating system for alleged patent infringement since 2010. Apple got the ball rolling by filing a lawsuit against HTC for allegedly infringing on 20 Apple patents in March 2010 and Microsoft followed shortly after by announcing it had reached a licensing agreement with HTC where the company would pay Microsoft royalties in exchange for the right to sell Android-based devices.

To combat these patent suits against Android vendors, Google has attempted to boost its own patent portfolio through both its failed bid to acquire valuable tech patents formerly held by Nortel and its announcement that it intends to pay $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility and its portfolio of 24,500 patents.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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