Top 10 Influential 2011: Apple vs. Samsung

The battle began when Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung for copying the iPad and iPod with its Samsung Galaxy phones and 10.1 tablet

Two of the world’s largest contenders in the consumer electronics arena, Apple and Samsung, have kept audiences all over the globe hanging on every detail in their legal battle over the infringement of a number of patents. The court case is far from over but has continued to occupy the news agenda this year, qualifying it as one of top ten stories for 2011.

The battle began when Apple filed a lawsuit against the Korean manufacturer in the US earlier this year, accusing the latter of blatantly copying the iPad and iPod with its Samsung Galaxy phones and 10.1 tablet. Apple claimed the Galaxy devices infringed on a number of patents relating the touchscreen and heuristics.

The stoush also ignited in Europe, Asia and North America.

The case soon hit Australian shores when Apple sought an injunction to prevent Samsung selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, which was finally granted in October.

When handing down the judgment in the NSW Federal Court, presiding judge, Justice Annabelle Bennett, said she had weighed up the balance of convenience for both parties and had come to the conclusion that both sides would suffer significant damage either way. Despite this, Bennett J, said in the end the balance of convenience had weighed in Apple’s favour.

Hot on the heels of Apple’s win with the Galaxy 10.1 ban, Samsung hastily retaliated, launching a lawsuit against Apple in a number of countries in an effort to secure an injunction against the US company selling its latest smartphone, the iPhone 4S, on the basis that it infringed a number of Samsung’s patents in its Galaxy smartphone.

The process saw much tit for tat between the two, with Samsung at one stage demanding access to the full versions of Apple’s carrier agreements with Telstra, Vodafone and Optus, despite earlier negotiations for a redacted version of the documents.

Samsung sought copies of the contracts in an effort to obtain evidence that Apple benefited from greater subsidies for the iPhone than handsets from rival manufacturers.

However, Samsung backed down from its demands after Apple’s legal counsel successfully persuaded Justice Bennett that the information sought was not in the documents. This case remains ongoing in 2012.

In the meantime, Samsung’s launched an appeal against the injunction handed down in October preventing the sale of the Galaxy 10.1 Tab in Australia. The case was heard by the full bench of the NSW Federal Court, comprising Justice Foster, Justice Dowsett and Justice Yates in November.

The full day hearing saw a minor win for Samsung with the full bench overturning the tablet ban, originally put in place by Justice Bennett on 30 October in a unanimous decision.

Not surprisingly the win was short lived, as Apple’s head barrister, Stephen Burley SC, requested a stay until the following week on the basis of an affidavit which contained materials relating to the potential harm to Apple.

A stay, the legal term referring to the act of suspending of a particular proceeding through the order of the court within a case, was granted by Justice Foster along with leave to file an interlocutory application.

With a desire to extend the initial stay, Apple applied for special leave to the High Court which was promptly quashed by the full bench of the High Court, comprising Justice Gummow, Justice French and Justice Bell.

Apple unsuccessfully argued that the full Federal Court had only one day to hear the case upon which it based its decision and this resulted in error.

“Special leave will be refused with costs for the application for a stay and expedition, the result is that the orders of the full court discharge and injunctive relief granted by the primary judge,” Justice French told the court.

Samsung began selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet earlier this week, issuing official pricing and availability details for the device just hours after the win.

The verdict has allowed the company to finally partake in the Christmas trading period, despite many delays which has resulted in a commercial loss to the company.

The case continues.

So, do you think the Samsung versus Apple case ranks as one of the biggest stories of the year? Comment below on how high you’d rank the story, and what else should be included in the Top 10.

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