Samsung seeks Dutch ban on iPhone and iPad

Korean giant hits back at Apple, which has already forced some Samsung products out of shops in Germany and Netherlands

Samsung has asked a Dutch court to ban Apple from selling its iPhones and iPad tablet computers in the Netherlands, on the grounds that the US group does not have licences to use 3G mobile technology.

The Korean electronics group is fighting back against Apple, which has already forced some Samsung products out of the shops in Australia, Germany and the Netherlands.

Samsung's lawyer Bas Berghuis told a civil judge at the Hague district court that Apple "never bothered to ask about licenses" before it started selling 3G-enabled iPhones that use the Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard (UMTS).

The two groups are involved in some 20 lawsuits worldwide as they vie for domination of the smartphone market, with Samsung having already overtaken Nokia and threatening to take the number one slot from Apple later this year.

Samsung's counsel argued that Apple should have asked for a licence before it launched the iPhone in the Netherlands in 2008, and globally in 2007. Berghuis claimed Apple was infringing Samsung UMTS technology licences structurally and consciously.

Apple lawyer Rutger Kleemans hit back by claiming Samsung was using the patent dispute to "hold Apple hostage" because Apple had accused Samsung of copying its designs.

"It's a holdup," Kleemans said. "Because Apple dared to take action against Samsung's copycat tactics."

Kleemans urged the court to reject the injunction request, saying the patents involved "are not designed to be used as a weapon against Apple."

Apple argues that Samsung is obliged to offer licenses for UMTS technology on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" terms because it has now been adopted as an industry standard.

Allowing the injunction would give Samsung disproportionate power to exploit its patents across the mobile industry, according to another of Apple's lawyers, Winfred Knibbeler. Apple is prepared to pay licence fees to Samsung, but accused the Korean group of making "exorbitant" payment demands in negotiations.

Earlier this month, a court in Dusseldorf, Germany, ruled that Samsung cannot sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany because its design too closely resembled the iPad 2. The ruling only applied to direct sales from Samsung, meaning distributors who acquire the Tab 10.1 from abroad could resell them in Germany. Samsung said it would appeal that judgment.

In the US, Apple has asked for an injunction which would see Samsung's Galaxy S 4G smartphone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer removed from the shelves, while the Korean group is petitioning for imports of iPhones and iPads to Apple's home market to be blocked.

In Australia, Apple has forced its rival to delay launching its new Galaxy tablets. Patent lawyers' fees are mounting across the globe, with the rivals also fighting court battles in France, Japan and South Korea.

Samsung's head of global marketing for mobile said last week in Seoul that the company would be taking a bolder stance in battling Apple in courts: "We'll be pursuing our rights for this in a more aggressive way from now on."

The battle is complicated by the fact that Apple is one of Samsung's largest customers for computer chips. The Californian group spent around $5.7bn on Samsung components last year, some 4% of its total sales.

Apple and Samsung are vying for the lead position in the smartphone market, where each sells more than 20m handsets per quarter, having both overtaken the struggling Nokia.

Samsung still trails in tablets, where Apple notched up 14m iPad sales in the first half, versus analysts' sales estimates of about 7.5m Samsung tablet products for all of 2011.


Juliette Garside

The GuardianTramp

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