SEOUL Samsung Electronics Co's flagship Galaxy smartphone looks very similar to Apple's iPhone, but the South Korean firm has not violated the iPhone design, a Seoul court ruled on Friday.
The South Korean ruling comes as the two technology titans are locked in a high-stakes global patent battle that mirrors a fierce rivalry for industry supremacy between two companies that control more than half the world's smartphone sales.
The Seoul court ruling on Friday comes ahead of more crucial U.S. verdicts. Nine jurors began deliberation on Wednesday in California in one of many disputes between the two firms around the world that analysts see as partly aimed at curbing the spread of Google Inc's Android, the world's most used mobile software.
"There are lots of external design similarities between the iPhone and Galaxy S, such as rounded corners and large screens ... but these similarities had been documented in previous products," a judge at the Seoul Central District Court said on Friday.
"Given that it's very limited to make big design changes in touch-screen based mobile products in general ... and the defendant (Samsung) differentiated its products with three buttons in the front and adopted different designs in camera and (on the) side, the two products have a different look," the judge said.
The judge said it was difficult to say that consumers would confuse the iPhone with the Galaxy given they clearly have the respective company logos on the back of each model, and consumers also factor in operating systems, brand, applications, price, and services when buying a phone.
The judge ordered Samsung to immediately stop selling 10 products, including the Galaxy S II, and also banned sales of four Apple products, including the iPhone 4 and iPad 2.
The court ruled that Apple infringed on two of Samsung's wireless technology patents and was ordered to pay Samsung 40 million won ($35,400). Samsung was fined 25 million won for violating one patent relating to so-called bouncing-back function used when scrolling electronic documents.
The compensation sought by both Apple and Samsung in South Korea is small due to the relatively small size of the market.
The wrangle was triggered by Apple's lawsuit in April last year claiming Samsung slavishly copied Apple's smartphones and tablets. Samsung has countered that it simply developed its own "unique" products in a bid to "best the competition," and that Apple actually owes money for using its patented technology.
In the United States, Apple is demanding more than $2.5 billion in damages and an order to permanently ban Samsung from selling patent-infringing products. Samsung argues Apple owes $422 million for violating a clutch of its patents.
Neither Apple nor Samsung had an immediate comment on the Seoul ruling.
In Seoul, Samsung shares last traded down 1.3 percent, in line with the broader market.
($1 = 1130.5750 Korean won)
(Reporting by Miyoung Kim and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)