UPDATE 1-German court delays Apple's slide-to-unlock lawsuit

Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:03am EDT

* Mannheim court suspends trial pending a separate suit

* Says has doubts over slide-to-unlock utility model

* Says will wait for decision from patent court in Munich

MANNHEIM, Germany, March 16 (Reuters) - A German court suspended a trial in which Apple Inc alleged that Samsung Electronics Co Ltd copied the slide-to-unlock technology of its iPhone and iPad devices, pending the outcome of a separate suit.

The regional court in Mannheim, Germany, said on Friday it had doubts over Apple's intellectual property right to the feature, which allows users to switch on a device by swiping over the touch-screen, and would wait for a decision in related proceedings in a Munich court.

Samsung filed a suit with the German Federal Patent Court in Munich in November, seeking to have revoked Apple's utility model, which is similar to a patent but has a shorter term, for the slide-to-unlock feature.

These cases are among a flurry of intellectual property disputes brought to courts in Germany, as well as other countries around the world, as makers of smartphones and tablets compete for a market worth billions of dollars.

Samsung said in an e-mailed statement it welcomed the Mannheim court's decision to stay the proceedings and said its Galaxy range of devices would remain available to consumers in Germany. Apple declined to comment.

The same court two weeks ago dismissed a case in which Apple alleged that Samsung infringed its slide-to-unlock patent. Apple is also locked in a separate legal battle over the patent with Motorola Mobility.

Apple first sued Samsung almost a year ago, claiming the maker of the Galaxy range of smartphones and tablets "slavishly" copied Apple's iPhone and iPad models.

Apple is also involved in patent battles with other smartphone makers using Google Inc's free Android platform, the fastest-growing mobile operating system, which is also used on Samsung's Galaxy range.

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