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Another legal setback for Samsung in German patent fight with Apple

People compare the performance of Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablet.

Thomas Peter/Reuters

A German court ruled against Samsung Electronics Co in a patent suit versus Apple , another leg in a long legal battle as the two technology giants jostle for top spot in the booming smartphone and tablet markets.

Samsung, which passed Apple in the third quarter as the world's top maker of smartphones, is locked in a bruising patent tussle with the U.S. firm in some 10 countries from the United States to Australia, France and Japan.

"This ruling related to only one of 13 patents that are currently in suit between those parties in Germany, and of dozens of patents on a worldwide basis," said independent patent expert Florian Mueller.

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"It's not the first rejection of a complaint involving these two players, and barring a major surprise, it won't be the last."

Samsung said Friday's ruling by a court in the German city of Mannheim covers one patent out of the three mobile technologies it claims Apple infringed. The German court will decide on the other two patents on Jan. 27 and March 2.

"We are disappointed that the court did not share our views regarding the infringement by Apple of this specific patent in Germany," Samsung said in a statement.

The South Korean firm said it has yet to decide whether to appeal Friday's ruling.

Apple first sued Samsung in April, claiming that the maker of the Galaxy range of smartphones and tablets "slavishly" copied Apple's iPhone and iPad models.

The ruling on the first full hearing in Germany comes after Samsung won a round against Apple in early December when an Australian court lifted a ban on the sale of its Galaxy tablet computer in time for the busy Christmas shopping season.

That triumph was tempered by a setback the previous day in Paris where another court rejected its bid to block sales of Apple's iPhone 4S in France.

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The quarrel has triggered expectations that some of the pair's $5-billion-plus relationship may be up for grabs. Samsung counts Apple as its biggest customer and makes parts central to Apple's mobile devices including processing chips.

Samsung has spent some $60-million in Apple-related legal expenses so far since the legal battle in April, a senior Samsung executive said.

Apple is also involved in patent battle with other smartphone markers using Google's free Android platform, the fastest growing mobile operating system that is also used on the Galaxy range.

Motorola Mobility Inc did not violate Apple's patent in making some smartphones, a judge at the U.S. International Trade and Commission (ITC) said in a preliminary ruling earlier this month.

The ITC found in December that Taiwan's HTC had infringed an Apple patent.

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