AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Apple won an injunction in a Dutch court on Wednesday to stop Samsung Electronics from marketing three smartphone models in some European countries after alleging a breach of patents.
Apple and Samsung are locked in a bruising patent fight in the United States, Europe and Asia, as they jostle for the top spot in the smartphone market after Nokia, the market leader for a decade, was ousted in the second quarter.
Apple, which has conquered the high end of the phone market with its iPhone, argued that Samsung had infringed on three of its patents. The court ruled that Samsung smartphones Galaxy S, S II and Ace breached just one of Apple’s patents.
The Apple patent allows for a certain method of scrolling or browsing through photos in some Samsung smartphones, the court added.
“It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging,” Apple said in a statement.
The court dismissed all other demands by Apple, saying there were no violations of two other Apple patents, no violations for Samsung’s tablet computers Galaxy Tab, and no violations of model rights. And there was no “slavish style copying”, the court added.
The patent violation could be solved by making technical changes in the smartphones, the court said in its ruling. This would then allow the sale of the smartphones.
Separately, a U.S. judge on Wednesday scheduled a trial between Apple and Samsung for July 30, 2012 over the companies’ intellectual property claims in the United States.
The injunction from the Dutch court applies in the Netherlands and other European countries where the patent is registered and is effective seven weeks and one day after Samsung acknowledges it — therefore not before October 13 — a spokeswoman for the court in The Hague said.
Samsung said in a statement that its affiliates in the Netherlands were not allowed to sell the smartphones in the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Sweden and Switzerland until the patent violation was resolved.
However, it said the ruling was not expected to affect sales in European markets other than the Netherlands.
“With regard to the single infringement cited in the ruling, we will take all possible measures including legal action to ensure that there is no disruption in the availability of our Galaxy smartphones to Dutch consumers,” the Korean company said.
Wednesday’s decision is a preliminary ruling and “has no bearing whatsoever on proceeding on the merits of the case”, the court said. The injunction itself has no time limit and cannot be challenged, the court spokeswoman added.
However, Samsung can — and already has — challenged the ruling behind the injunction, although no date for a hearing has been set yet, the spokeswoman added.
Samsung unveiled four new smartphone models under its Galaxy line on Wednesday, expanding its flagship product line to cheaper phones to tap growth in emerging markets.
Its quest for more market share in the lucrative high-end electronics market has sparked several legal rows with Apple. Last week a German court lifted most of an injunction it had imposed on a rival to Apple’s iPad being sold by Samsung.
Apple and others have moved aggressively to defend their intellectual property in maturing markets, especially against Google’s Android software platform, on which the new Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet is built.
Android, a latecomer to the mobile market, has become a target by rapidly turning into the world’s most popular smartphone platform. Google is relatively defenseless because it owns few wireless patents, in contrast to older rivals.
Samsung launched its first flagship Galaxy phone in June 2010 and its follow-up Galaxy S II, launched in April this year, has sold more than 5 million units.
In the U.S. case, Apple previously sought a trial date of February 1, 2012.
At a hearing on Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, attorneys for Apple accepted Koh’s proposed date of July 30. Samsung argued July 30 would be too soon.
A hearing on Apple’s request for a preliminary injunction against Samsung in the United States is currently scheduled for October 13 before Koh.
Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in London, Nicola Leske in Frankfurt and Dan Levine in San Jose, California; editing by David Cowell, Jon Loades-Carter and Andre Grenon