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Samsung lands blow on Apple as ban on tablet sales is overturned

Samsung has landed a significant victory in the tit-for-tat legal wranglings with Apple after a ban on sales of its tablet computers was overturned in Australia.

This is one of 10 legal battles between the electronics giants and follows a move by Samsung to try to ban sales of the iPhone 4S in the country.

Apple, which said the South Korean group's Galaxy Tab infringes on its hugely popular iPad devices, is set to decide whether to fight the ruling made by the country's Federal Appeals Court. The dispute focuses on the technology used in the Tab's touchscreen.

Samsung can resume selling the device as early as tomorrow, bringing it back to the shelves in time for the crucial Christmas period. It feared not being available for the festive season would effectively kill the device's chances in the country. The group has already provided strong competition for the iPhone in the smartphone market with its Galaxy SII and the Galaxy Nexus.

It argued that the original judge on the case had "misunderstood and misapplied" basic requirements of the law in her ruling when Australia's lower court backed Apple's case in October.

The bench of the Federal Court Justices Lindsay Foster, John Dowsett and David Yates unanimously agreed to lift the preliminary injunction, just granting Apple a delay on lifting the ban until Friday. Samsung believes the ruling will bolster its case in other countries where Apple has filed to ban sales of its rival. It lodged a preliminary injunction over sales of the redesigned Galaxy Tab 10.1N in Germany on Monday.

The Tab 10.1 is already banned in the country, while its Galaxy smartphones were hit with a temporary sales ban in the Netherlands.

A spokesman for the group said: "We believe the ruling clearly affirms that Apple's legal claims lack merit."

The companies are currently fighting over a series of patent cases involving their smartphones and tablets in 10 countries. An Australian court will hear Samsung's case against the iPhone 4S, and three other countries, early next year.

To complicate the matter further, Samsung makes parts for Apple devices, and some have speculated that relationship could come under severe pressure. A series of smartphone companies are locked in patent cases with each other. Earlier this month HTC said it would reconsider buying S3 Graphics after a ruling showed Apple did not infringe its patents.

Last month, data drawn up by Strategy Analytics showed that Samsung had overtaken Apple to become the largest smartphone seller.

The devices including the SII, which run Google's Android operating system, rose 40 per cent in the third quarter to 27.8 million smartphones. This made up almost a quarter of the market. Apple sales retreated, according to experts, because customers waited for the release of the iPhone 4S shortly after the end of the third quarter. The Californian group is expected to reclaim the top spot during the last three months of the year.

Owning mobile patents has become increasingly important as rival smartphone makers seek to gain an advantage on their competitors. Apple is buying patents from Nortel, and the IP portfolio was a crucial factor in Google's acquisition of Motorola.