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German court tosses Samsung's 3G-related lawsuit against Apple

One of Samsung's numerous lawsuits against Apple in Germany, accusing the iPhone maker of violating a patent related to 3G/UMTS wireless communications, was rejected by the court on Friday.

The decision from Judge Andreas Voss was the first ruling on seven different patent infringement claims Samsung has made against Apple in Germany, according to Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents. Those six patents are tied up in four other lawsuits, while Apple has accused Samsung of violating six of its own patents in Germany.

Friday's ruling is particularly noteworthy because the judge chose to reject Samsung's suit, rather than issue a stay. Though Voss did not provide a reasoning for his pronouncement, if he had determined that Samsung's 3G patent was invalid, the outcome of the lawsuit would have been a stay rather than a rejection.

"There are two reasonably likely possibilities: either Apple's products weren't deemed to infringe on the patent in a technical sense or the court believes Samsung's rights are exhausted and Apple has, by extension, a technical license," Mueller wrote.

"If the reason for the rejection was technical non-infringement, Samsung's other assertions of 3G/UMTS patents in Germany could still succeed. However, if the reason was patent exhaustion, all but one of the four remaining Samsung lawsuits in Germany (one over two patents unrelated to 3G, including a smiley input patent) would likely be thrown out as well."

The ruling comes only days after Apple filed its latest suit against Samsung in Germany, a country that has been the origin of many complaints between the two companies. Apple's most recent complaint has asked the German court to ban the sale of Samsung's Galaxy S II smartphone along with nine other handsets and five tablet models.

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A court in Germany previously sided with Apple and temporarily halted sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but the South Korean electronics maker quickly redesigned the device to create the Galaxy Tab 10.1N. The German court found that Samsung's modifications to the redesigned tablet were enough to avoid Apple's patented designs, and the device remains available for sale.

Mueller noted that there has been a "high drop-out rate in multiple jurisdictions" for the lawsuits between Apple and Samsung. However, neither company appears to be backing down on its strategies.

"There's too much at stake, and as long as neither party has leverage, there's no pressure to settle," he offered in his analysis. "Apple and Samsung are currently the most profitable wireless device makers in the world. Neither legal fees nor the distraction that these lawsuits create pose a serious problem to their business."

The courtroom showdown began last April, when Apple filed the first lawsuit, accusing Samsung of copying the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad. Both companies are now engaged in a worldwide legal battle that has sparked lawsuits in 10 countries across four continents.