Apple won a victory Thursday in its global patent battle with Samsung when a judge in Australia upheld a temporary injunction blocking the South Korean company from selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer in the Pacific nation. Justice Annabelle Bennett ruled that the Samsung product couldn't be sold in Australia if it used features such as touch-screen technology that Apple claims infringe patents used in its popular iPad tablet.
The ruling is a skirmish in a wider global war in which two of the world's biggest technology companies are vying for supremacy in the US$100 billion market for tablet computers and smartphones. Behind that stands a conflict between Apple and Google Inc., whose Android operating system runs many of the computers and mobile devices which have been the target of Apple's patent suits.

"In the end it's a battle between Apple and Google," said Paul Budde, an independent telecoms analyst, who described the decision as a short-term victory but a long-term loss for the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology company.

"I can clearly see that Apple has a case that it has created some innovative new technology," he said,"but on the other hand the reality is we live in an open world and you cannot because of one innovation stop the rest of the world going in similar directions."

Apple, the world's biggest technology company by market value, has already scored a major win in Germany where a court has banned sales of Samsung's Galaxy Tab in Europe's biggest economy. The two companies have launched patent claims against one another in other countries including the U.S., Japan and South Korea, and the Australian decision will likely back up the German decision ahead of an appeal hearing there.

But Samsung hinted at the possibility of an appeal to the Sydney court ruling and vowed to pursue a counterclaim, alleging that Apple is in infringement of some of its wireless technology patents. Samsung last week said it will try to stop the sale of Apple's iPhone 4S in France and Italy, claiming that it infringed on patents used in third-generation transmission technology.

"We are disappointed with this ruling and Samsung will be seeking legal advice on its options," the company said in a statement."We will continue to legally assert our intellectual property rights against those who violate Samsung's patents and free ride on our technology."

During the hearing earlier this month, Samsung's lawyers warned the ruling could leave the Galaxy Tab "commercially dead" in Australia, due to the speed of innovation int he market. The computer would be unlikely to hit the streets in time for the crucial Christmas market, the lawyers said. Apple has sold an estimated 500,000 iPads in Australia, according to a Credit Suisse report in June.

However, the Korean company Wednesday said it had modified smartphones that had been banned from sale in the Netherlands for allegedly violating Apple patents, and would start selling them in the Dutch market this month.

A Samsung spokesman indicated the company might take a similar approach in other markets where Apple is seeking or has already obtained a ban on Samsung's smartphones and tablet computers.

In a further sign of the growing bitterness of the dispute, less than 10 minutes' walk from the court Samsung has set up a short-term "pop-up store" just a few doors down from Apple's flagship store in the city to spike the local launch of Apple's iPhone 4S Friday.

Samsung is offering its Galaxy S2 smartphone--first launched in the country in late June--for 2 Australian dollars (US$2.04) at the store this week, and rival queues have been lined up outside the companies' store-fronts since Tuesday.

Customers on both sides seemed cynical about the methods being employed."It's a weird tactic setting up right here," said Jessica Morton, 23, who has been queuing outside the Samsung shop for two days.

Tom Mosca, 15, who arrived outside the Apple store on Tuesday morning, was equally critical of the commercial battle taking to the courts."If another person releases (a phone) let that be released and whichever one is better will sell more," he said.

Apple responded to the court decision at the Federal Court in New South Wales state by repeating a statement from its original filing:"This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."

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