Sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 are permitted in the US... For now...

Apple has been denied a preliminary injunction to block the sale of Samsung’s touchscreen smartphones and tablets in the US, after a judge in California ruled that the Korean manufacturer’s products would not severely impact Apple’s sales.

The ruling means that Samsung will be able to sell its devices in the US during the traditionally lucrative Christmas season.

US District Judge Lucy Koh in said in a court in San Jose, California: “It is not clear that an injunction on Samsung’s accused devices would prevent Apple from being irreparably harmed.”

Samsung responded to the ruling, with a spokesperson saying that the ruling “confirms our long-held view that Apple’s arguments lack merit. In particular, the court has recognised that Samsung has raised substantial questions about the validity of certain Apple design patents.”

Koh’s ruling only relates to an interim injunction that Apple had been seeking, and there is still a chance that Samsung could see an eventual ban imposed on its devices, when a full trial commences in July 2012. However, Samsung remains optimistic that it will come out victorious in the main trial as well.

“We are confident that we can demonstrate the distinctiveness of Samsung’s mobile devices when the case goes to trial next year,” the spokesperson added.

Apple has been seeking a ban on Samsung products – most aggressively on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet – in various countries across the world. It won its bid to ban sales of the device in Germany, where a Düsseldorf court upheld Apple’s preliminary injunction, which claims that Samsung had infringed its intellectual property and copied the iPad’s design.

Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hoffmann ruled that there was a “clear impression of similarity” between the Apple and the Samsung devices.

The ban could still be extended across the European Union, although Samsung has said that it will “actively and immediately” appeal the ruling and will likely go to a higher court, the Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf.

Last week, Samsung was also given the green light to sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, after a court ruled that the device does not infringe on Apple’s patents.

The Cupertino company was granted a temporary injunction that stopped Samsung from selling the device in the country, similar to the injunction it has secured in Germany. However, that has now been overturned.

Despite this, Apple does not plan to make life easy for the Korean manufacturer with reports suggesting that it is likely appeal this latest decision, which could stop Samsung from being able to capitalise on the Christmas sales period in Australia.

Earlier this year, Malik Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media told Telecoms.com that such patent disputes are stifling innovation in the handset and connected devices markets.

“Initially, the goal of patenting was to protect innovation. Now, the target of patenting is to prevent innovation, because of this protectionism,” said Saadi. “That is really bad for the industry, when you see companies just buying patent rights to use them as legal battle against others – that really kills innovation.”

He added that intellectual property copyright ought to encourage more sharing and innovation, but instead, patenting is becoming purely a legal tool.

“It’s becoming a case that these giants are trying to monopolise innovation and giving a hard time to anyone who wants to innovate their own circle,” Saadi concluded.

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