Tech giant Apple has won what looks like a major victory against its biggest competitor - Samsung - in the German courts.
First reported by the German news agency - dpa - but soon picked up by tech patent expert and German native Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents, the news concerns the granting of a preliminary injunction against Samsung concerning its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.
The injunction was granted to Apple following an alleged infringement of one of its European Community Designs concerning the iPad (see below). This is part of the broader, global action being taken by Apple against Samsung alleging the latter copied Apple designs in many of its mobile devices.
A preliminary injunction bans the distribution of the products in question in anticipation of a permanent injunction being granted at the conclusion of the legal process. This action concerns intellectual property, rather than patents, and as a result is enforceable across the whole EU (except Holland, where a separate action is underway). In short, Samsung is now banned from distributing the Galaxy Tab 10.1 across Europe.
This is a pretty big deal. Despite being launched at MWC back in February, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has only recently become available to buy across Europe, and has been reported as being the fastest seller, after the iPad, of all tablets so far. Samsung has been the most conspicuous tablet competitor for Apple to date, and this is a potentially huge set-back.
Both companies have issued statements since the initial report, with Apple reciting the standard line about copying being wrong. Here's what Samsung had to say: "Samsung is disappointed with the court's decision and we intend to act immediately to defend our intellectual property rights through the ongoing legal proceedings in Germany and will continue to actively defend these rights throughout the world.
"We will take all necessary measures to ensure Samsung's innovative mobile communications devices are available to customers in Europe and around the world. This decision by the court in Germany in no way influences other legal proceedings filed with the courts in Europe and elsewhere."
According to Mueller, this lack of notification is not unusual in German courts, and doesn't, by itself, seem to constitute strong grounds for appealing the decision. Samsung will appeal, of course, but it faces severe disruption to the distribution of its new tablet at a critical time, at the very least.
But Samsung potentially faces the crippling of an entire generation of its tablets and the need to ensure future designs of the Galaxy Tab differ sufficiently from the iPad to ensure it can continue to play in the tablet market at all.