SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian court on Friday lifted a ban on the sale of Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy tablet computer in the country, adding to a U.S. legal victory for the South Korean technology firm in its bruising battle with Apple Inc.
The latest move by the High Court allows Samsung to offer the device Australian shoppers in time for the busy Christmas shopping season.
Samsung and Apple are locked in the biggest legal battle for the global technology industry across 10 countries as the they jostle for the top spot in the fast-growing smartphone and tablet computer markets.
The Australian court decision follows a U.S. court ruling that denied Apple’s plea to ban Galaxy phones and tablets. Apple has appealed the U.S. decision.
Apple has accused Samsung of “slavishly” ripping off its designs, while Samsung has launched suits against Apple.
Samsung’s Galaxy tablet 10.1, which is considered one of the main alternatives to Apple’s iPad has been kept out of the Australian market since late July.
The Australian market, while not huge is the first launch market for Apple products outside the United States.
In late November, Samsung won a rare legal victory after an Australian Federal Court unanimously decided to lift a preliminary injunction, imposed by a lower court, on sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Apple had appealed the decision in the High Court, which is the final court of appeal. Apple could not be reached for comment immediately.
Samsung is the world’s top smartphone maker, but a distant second to Apple in tablets.
The quarrel has triggered expectations that some of the pair’s $5 billion-plus relationship may be up for grabs. Samsung counts Apple as its biggest customer and makes parts central to Apple’s mobile devices.
Samsung shares were trading 1.2 percent lower at 0102 GMT, while the broader Seoul market was down 1.9 percent.
Global tablet sales are expected to explode to more than 50 million in 2011. Apple, which has sold more than 30 million iPads so far, is expected to continue to dominate the market in the near term.
Now Amazon.com has also entered the fray with its Kindle Fire tablet, but Samsung’s Galaxy line-up is widely deemed the closest rival in terms of capability and design to the iPad.
The legal battle in Australia doesn’t stop at tablet computers. Samsung has sought to block sales of Apple’s latest iPhone 4S, which went on sale in early October, by filing preliminary sales injunction requests in four countries including Australia.
An Australian court has agreed to hear that case in March and April of 2012, with sales allowed to continue as normal ahead of the hearing on alleged patent infringements.
Samsung said on Friday that a French court had rejected its request to ban sale of the latest iPhone in that country.
Writing by Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by Lincoln Feast
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