An American judge ordered Samsung Electronics Co. to halt U.S. sales of its Galaxy Nexus smartphone while the court considers Apple’s claim that the South Korean company infringed its patents.
In Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) second victory in a week against Android devices, the U.S. District Court of Northern California said Friday that the Galaxy Nexus smartphone “likely” infringes four patents held by Apple Inc., including a patent used in the “Siri” voice-activated assistance available in the iPhone 4S.
“Apple has clearly shown that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief,” Judge Lucy Koh wrote in the ruling available online.
“Although Samsung will necessarily be harmed by being forced to withdraw its product from the market before the merits can be determined after a full trial, the harm faced by Apple absent an injunction is greater,” Koh said in her ruling. “Apple’s interest in enforcing its patent rights is particularly strong because it has presented a strong case on the merits.”
She ordered Apple to post a $96 million bond – an estimated damage sustained by Samsung from the temporary sales ban – in case the iPhone maker loses to Samsung in a later trial, scheduled for 2014. The sales ban in the United States will be effective immediately when Apple posts the bond.
“It’s a big deal,” said Carl Howe, an analyst with Yankee Group, a Boston-based technology research firm. “Samsung is perhaps the best and most successful challenge to Apple in the smartphone business, so to win an injunction against your biggest competitor is pretty profound.”
Taken with the earlier ruling on the Galaxy Tab, he said, “It does imply that there will be problems for Samsung.”
Samsung accounts for 29.1 percent of global shipments of smartphones, according to market research firm IDC. Cupertino, California-based Apple is second with 24.2 percent, IDC said.
Apple has sought to bar as many as 25 Samsung smartphones in addition to the Nexus model covered by yesterday’s ruling, including the latest, the Galaxy S III. The Nexus phone was the first smartphone to run Google’s Android version 4.0.
The Galaxy Nexus lawsuit is one in a series of legal battles between Apple and Samsung. The two world’s largest makers of smartphones together claimed more than half of the global smartphone market in the first three months of this year.
Samsung and Apple have been embroiled in multiple lawsuits in Asia, North America and Europe since April 2011 when Apple accused Samsung of copying its iPhone and iPad. Samsung shot back with claims that Apple is using its mobile technology without permission.
The latest order from the Californian court follows Koh’s decision Tuesday to temporarily block the sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer in the United States.
But it is “the first serious blow” Apple has dealt to Samsung and Google Inc., said Florian Mueller, a Germany-based patent analyst. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 was released more than a year ago and accounts for a small portion of Samsung’s mobile sales. The Galaxy Nexus smartphone was launched in the U.S. market in December 2011.
The Nexus is also the first smartphone to be powered by the most recent Android operating system called “Ice Cream Sandwich,” which includes a unified search feature that lets users search information stored in various locations with a single input.
As a result of the sales ban, Samsung and Google’s “co-developed flagship device for the current generation of Android will have to be stripped of some or all of its Siri-like functionality,” Mueller said in an emailed response.
Samsung said it is disappointed with the court order and will take all legal measures.
“We are currently working closely with Google to resolve this matter, as the patent in question concerns Google’s unified search function,” said Nam Ki-yung, a Samsung spokesman.
“Samsung will continue to take all available measures, including legal action to ensure the Galaxy Nexus remains available to consumers.
Apple did not return calls seeking comment.
(Bloomberg news contributed to this report.)