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Another week has passed, and with it, more ups and downs in the long-running patent fight between Apple and its mobile devices and rival Android device maker Samsung.
The latest: Samsung has lost a bid in a French court to get Apple’s iPhone banned in that country.
Apple Insider has the story, which details Samsung’s attempt to block the sale of the iPhone 4S because of Samsung’s 3G cellular technology patents. The French court that overseas first instances of patent disputes threw out Samsung’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Apple Thursday, and indicated that Samsung might not find success with its patent claims against the iPhone 4S anywhere in the world.
The case centers around FRAND, or fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory patents in the European Union. FRAND patents are patents that are owned by a company or companies but are used by industry organizations when setting standards. When those organizations set standards, they use FRAND rules to make sure the single companies that own the patents used to set the standards for the rest of the industry don’t get an upper hand simply by owning the right intellectual property rights. The companies that hold the patents can license them, but they have to do so fairly and reasonably to everyone in the industry and not discriminate against one company or another for their own gain.
In Samsung’s case, the French court has indicated that Samsung might not be living up to its FRAND obligations. It's implying that Samsung is trying to use its patent (which the industry has decided are the standard for every company), in order to get an unfair upper hand over Apple.
That’s potentially a pretty devastating ruling, as Samsung had hoped to battle Apple’s patent claims against its products with its 3G patents. Apple has won a few key victories across Europe by arguing that a few of Samsung’s devices, notably is Galaxy S II smartphone and its Galaxy Tab tablet series, infringe on design patents for the iPhone and iPad. Apple has gotten temporary injunctions and permanent bans in The Netherlands, Germany and Australia in the last few months. Recently, Samsung had hoped to bring the fight back to Apple, but if the French court’s ruling holds true in other countries, it may take away Samsung’s primary weapon in turning the fight around.
But that doesn’t mean Apple is winning this court battle unopposed. A U.S. judge suggested that Apple was failing to prove that its designs had been infringed by Samsung earlier this week, shooting down a bid for an injunction against the South Korean device maker’s products on this side of the Atlantic. And as Apple Insider reports, Apple lost an appeal in Australia to maintain a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s devices in that country after it had been turned down. That could mean Samsung will be able to sell its banned products in that country, specifically its Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 7.1, as early as next week.
So both device makers have lost ground against the other in recent days, and both are finding courts questioning whether the pair has legal standing to get one set of devices or the other banned in any given country. We’re still waiting for cases to receive official rulings, but until that happens, it seems more people will have more choices when it comes to mobile devices, both on the iOS and Android sides of the aisle.