Apple must show patents valid in Samsung case, U.S. district judge says

SAN JOSE, Calif. ― A U.S. judge said that Samsung Electronic’s Galaxy tablets infringe Apple Inc’s. iPad patents, but added that Apple has a problem establishing the validity of its patents in the latest courtroom face-off between the technology giants.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh made the comments in a court hearing on Thursday, but has yet to rule on Apple’s request to bar some Galaxy products from being sold in the United States.

Apple and Samsung are engaged in a bruising legal battle that includes more than 20 cases in 10 countries as the two jostle for the top spot in the smartphone and tablet markets.

Earlier on Thursday, an Australian court slapped a temporary ban on the sale of Samsung’s latest computer tablet in that country.

Apple sued Samsung in the United States in April, saying the South Korean company’s Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablets “slavishly” copies the iPhone and iPad.

Apple then filed a request in July to bar some Samsung products from U.S. sale, including the Galaxy S 4G smartphone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.

Mobile providers Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA have opposed Apple’s request, arguing that a ban on Galaxy products would cut into holiday sales.

Apple must show both that Samsung infringed its patents and that its patents are valid under the law.

Samsung attorney Kathleen Sullivan argued that in order to defeat an injunction bid, Samsung need only show that it has raised strong enough questions about the validity of Apple’s patents.

“We think we’ve clearly raised substantial questions,” Sullivan said at the hearing on Thursday in a San Jose, California federal court.

Apple attorney Harold McElhinny said Apple’s product design is far superior to previous tablets, so Apple’s patents should not be invalidated by designs that came before.

“It was the design that made the difference,” McElhinny said.

Koh frequently remarked on the similarity between each company’s tablets. At one point during the hearing, she held one black glass tablet in each hand above her head, and asked Sullivan if she could identify which company produced which.

“Not at this distance your honor,” said Sullivan, who stood at a podium roughly 10 feet away.

“Can any of Samsung’s lawyers tell me which one is Samsung and which one is Apple?” Koh asked. A moment later, one of the lawyers supplied the right answer.

Additionally, at the hearing Koh said she would deny Apple’s request for an injunction based on one of Apple’s so-called “utility” patents.

She did not say whether she would grant the injunction based on three other Apple “design” patents.

T-Mobile lines up against Apple in Samsung lawsuit on selling Galaxy products

BELLEVUE, Wash. ― T-Mobile USA has become the latest mobile provider opposing Apple’s (AAPL.O) bid to stop Samsung Electronics Co. from selling some Galaxy products in the United States, according to a court filing.

The move by T-Mobile on Wednesday follows a similar position taken last week by Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile, which cited 2011 holiday sales as one of its primary concerns, is the fourth largest U.S. mobile service, while Verizon is the biggest.

The legal battle between Apple and Samsung has been building since April, when Apple sued Samsung in a California federal court for infringing its intellectual property rights.

Samsung is the leading user of the Google Android platform. Apple claims the South Korean firm’s Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablets “slavishly” copies the iPhone and iPad.

Apple has asked a judge to issue an injunction that would prevent Samsung from selling some Galaxy products. A hearing on the injunction request is scheduled for Oct. 13.

An order against Samsung would “unnecessarily harm” T-Mobile and its customers, T-Mobile said in a court filing on Wednesday.

“At this late date, T-Mobile could not find comparable replacement products for the 2011 holiday season,” the company argued.

T-Mobile’s marketing campaigns “prominently feature” the Galaxy S 4G phone and Galaxy Tab 10.1, and the company has also ordered holiday inventory, it said in the filing.

“These investments cannot be recouped easily,” the company said.

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet on Wednesday referred to earlier statements, saying that Apple needed to protect its intellectual property when companies steal its ideas.

Other carriers such as AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel have not yet weighed in on the debate. Representatives for the companies had no immediate comment.

In a statement, T-Mobile said it respects intellectual property rights but that an injunction “is a drastic and extraordinary measure.”

Earlier this week, Verizon said that disputes involving intellectual property should not interfere with the free flow of the newest 4G devices.

Samsung unveiled an agreement with Microsoft on Wednesday for the development and marketing of Windows phones, as well as a wide patent cross-licensing deal. Microsoft will get royalties for Samsung devices that run the Android platform.

T-Mobile is owned by Deutsche Telekom.