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Samsung says it won’t try to block the iPhone 4S in South Korea

by Phil Hornshaw

The bitter legal battles between Samsung and Apple continue, but it appears that the South Korean device maker is reversing its position on fighting the iPhone maker on its home turf.

According to a story from The Next Web, Samsung has confirmed with South Korean media outlets that it won’t fight the device in the country’s courts, a change in its position from earlier this year. But don’t expect this to be an indication of the battles between the two companies coming to an end.

Instead, it seems Apple is winning the fight in the court of public opinion. Samsung is abandoning its attempts to block the iPhone 4S because, it seems, it wants to avoid negative publicity in its home country as trying to deprive people of Apple’s incredibly popular device. The Next Web references a story from The Chosun Ilbo in South Korea, which says that the debate at Samsung as to whether to file against the iPhone came down to the last moment.

Samsung and Apple are at each other’s throats over a series of patent disputes that have been going badly for Samsung. Apple claims certain Samsung devices “slavishly” copy its own iPhones and iPads: namely, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 7, and its Galaxy S II smartphone. Already, Apple has won major victories in patent battles all over the world, resulting in the ban of some Samsung devices in Germany, The Netherlands and Australia. The two companies also have cases pending in many other countries all over the world, including the U.S.

A change of heart

At first, it seemed Samsung was resistant to the idea of going into a full-bore battle with Apple. Samsung supplies (or perhaps “supplied”) components for many of Apple’s mobile devices. But after Apple began winning injunctions against Samsung in various countries, Samsung pledged to fight back just as hard. It stated explicitly in October that it would work to ban the iPhone 4S in Korea when it was released.

Samsung has a number of patents in its corner that it intends to use against Apple, apparently mostly concerning smartphone and mobile component technology (as opposed to “look and feel” patents that Apple has mostly been pursuing). It’s counter-suing in Australia and in other countries, including Italy.

Despite the constant patent fights, however, Samsung surpassed Apple in smartphone sales revenue during the quarter that ended on Sept. 30 and says it has hit or surpassed all its sales goals for tablets so far this year. Even though it has had to redesign devices to put them on sale in multiple countries, the South Korean device maker continues to perform well.

The change in approach to its legal battles in South Korea is very telling of the relationship between the top two smartphone manufacturers in the world. That Samsung would rather leave Apple be in its home country to protect its own images – and thus its own sales – indicates just how big of a juggernaut Apple and the iPhone really are. And yet, Samsung is still doing extremely well in the market, leaving it in a position where it’s more beneficial to just leave Apple alone than to attack it directly.

Still, Apple won’t be relenting in any of its patent cases against Samsung, and it’s likely that this battle will be continuing for quite some time.