German court indicates Apple could lose bans on Samsung Galaxy Tabs

If the Düsseldorf court had to rule today, it would find that Samsung does not infringe on Apple's designs, a court spokesman said

Apple could be on the verge of losing the bans on sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab it has won in German courts. If the Düsseldorf lower regional court were to rule now, Samsung would be unlikely to be found infringing on Apple's design rights, which would overturn earlier rulings that halted sales of Galaxy tablets, a court spokesman said on Tuesday.

Apple is after a permanent sales ban on the Galaxy 7.7, 8.9, 10.1, 10.1N and 10.1V in Germany because it claims Samsung infringes on its design rights, said Andreas Vitek, spokesman for the lower regional court of Düsseldorf. During a Tuesday hearing Judge Johanna Brückner-Hofmann said that if she had to review the case now, Samsung would not be likely to be found infringing Apple's rights, Vitek said.

Previously, several Galaxy Tabs were found to be too similar to the iPad, and Apple won injunctions against their sales. Those bans, however, were awarded during preliminary proceedings that are less thorough than the current main procedure, said Vitek. If Apple loses this lawsuit, all the decisions made in the preliminary proceedings will be overturned, and the sales bans will be lifted, said Vitek.

For the time being though, the German sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the European sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 7.7 will remain in force until Brückner-Hofmann rules in this case, Vitek said. Reaching a verdict might take a while, because Samsung filed a counter-claim disputing the validity of the three design rights Apple claims Samsung to infringe, he added.

Apple declined to comment on statements made in court Tuesday. Samsung did not reply to a request for comment.

While Apple used a design right registered in 2004 during the preliminary proceedings, the company decided to change its tactics and use three newer design rights registered in 2010 for the main proceedings, said Vitek.

While Apple has had success with the older rights, the same Düsseldorf court denied Apple a sales ban on the Motorola Xoom tablet in July in a lawsuit filed over the three newer rights. Motorola in that case also filed a counter-claim, demanding that the court decide that Apple's community designs were invalid, but that claim was denied.

Samsung is disputing the validity of the three newer rights at the Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office of the European Union, where Apple's European design rights are registered, said Vitek. The Düsseldorf court has to wait for a decision from the registration office before it can proceed, he added.

The Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office could not immediately comment on the status of the pending validity procedures.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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