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Apple wins ban on Samsung smartphones in Europe

The fur has been flying thick as Apple and Samsung argue over patents and prior art before a court in the Hague, but Apple scored another victory today as the court granted a temporary injunction barring the imports of Samsung’s Galaxy S, SII, and Ace smartphones for violating an Apple photo management patent. If the injunction stands, the ban will go into effect on October 15, and would effectively bar the smartphones from the European market since Amsterdam is their primary port of entry.

According to Judge E.F. Brinkman, the Samsung smartphones running Android 2.3 infringe on an European patent held by Apple, titled “Portable Electronic Device for Photo Management.” The patent describes a method for scrolling through photo galleries using gestures on a touchscreen. However, Brinkman also ruled that Android 3.0 does not infringe on this Apple patent—which is why Samsung’s Android 3.0 tablets have not been found in violation. If Samsung can update the smartphones to Android 3.0, they can evade the import ban.

Brinkman denied Apple’s other infringement claims against the Samsung devices, which centered on design and intellectual property: Brinkman specifically found that Samsung does not “slavishly copy” Apple product designs, a claim that has been central to Apple’s global infringement campaign against Samsung.

Earlier this month Apple was granted a preliminary restraining order on the import of Samsung Galaxy Tabs into Europe; however, a week later that ban was lifted in all countries except Germany.

If Apple’s latest victory over Samsung sticks, it might have broader implications for the Android platform: the case represents the first time a version of Android has been found to be in violation of an Apple patent. That finding could be used as ammunition in Apple’s ongoing litigation against not just Samsung, but HTC and Motorola—and that could take the fight directly to Google, since the company announced last week it intends to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.