Court Snubs Apple, Okays Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1N, Nexus Smartphone Sales

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You win some, you lose some: Apple's attempt to secure a preliminary ban on Samsung's Galaxy 10.1N and Galaxy Nexus in Germany has apparently failed. A regional court in Munich gave Apple's motion to block sales of Samsung's tablet and smartphone the big thumbs down Thursday. The reason, says the court: Apple patents for touch screen tablet and smartphone tech aren't long for this world.

“Samsung has shown that it is more likely than not that the patent will be revoked because of a technology that was already on the market before the intellectual property had been filed for protection,” said presiding judge Andreas Mueller in the ruling.

The patent in question relates to the way the interface lets you know when you've scrolled through a list to a page's limit, described as "list scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display" by analyst Florian Mueller, who added that the court's decision about the technology was "relatively surprising." Apple can still appeal the decision.

Apple went for Samsung's throat last spring, initially suing Samsung in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and alleging that various Samsung phones and tablets infringed on Apple's intellectual property. Samsung countersued and took the battle global, filing its own complaints that Apple had infringed on Samsung's intellectual property in multiple countries. The battle's raged monthly since, bouncing from one (attempted) preliminary injunction to the next.

Last August, a German court granted Apple's request for a preliminary ban on sales of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet (Apple alleges the device infringes on two interface-related patents). Interestingly, a Dusseldorf-based court just upheld that ban in a decision reached yesterday, but the ban doesn't apply to Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1N — a revised version of the tablet whose fate will be decided next week, Feb. 9, in a lower court ruling.

Mueller argues Apple and Samsung should simply quit filing preliminary injunctions: "While I can understand that time is of the essence in such a dispute (the first one to have major leverage will likely get a settlement on much more favorable terms than otherwise) and while I'm furthermore aware of the competitive situation between the world's top two mobile device makers, most of those bids have so far either failed. Those that succeeded have partly been overturned (such as in Australia) or designed around (such as in Germany)."

Imagine the money spent in legal fees on these lawsuits to date (at least 19, and in 10 countries). It boggles the mind.

Matt Peckham writes for TIME and PCWorld. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

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