Samsung sues Australia's patent commissioner over Apple row

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Image caption Apple managed to enforce a temporary ban against Samsung's tablet between October and December

Samsung is suing the Australian patent commissioner in the latest twist in its intellectual property clash with Apple.

The South Korean firm is seeking to invalidate four patents which Apple claimed had been infringed by Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer.

Samsung alleges that the patents should never have been granted as they duplicated earlier intellectual property filings.

A judge will hold a hearing into the matter on 25 June.

Samsung made the claim in May, but the details only emerged after a report by ITnews .

Secure vs innovation

The Australian news site said the four patents involved slide-to-unlock, photo management, scaling and rotation features found on the iPhone and iPad.

Australia has two types of patents : standard and innovation. The standard-type is tougher to secure, and offers 20 years of protection. It is designed to cover ideas that require longer development and will be on the market for a prolonged time.

The innovation-type is easier and quicker to obtain, but only offers eight years of protection. It is designed for products that are only small advances over existing technology and may have a short commercial life.

Australian rules say innovation patents can only be converted to standard patents in the period before they have been accepted.

Samsung claims the commissioner was at fault because he granted Apple's inventions standard patents after they had already secured innovation ones.

If the Asian firm prevails, it will undermine part of its American competitor's efforts to ban its tablet.

"Although the lawsuit is directed against the commissioner, Samsung's ire is really directed against Apple," said Andrew Alton, a patent lawyer at Urquhart-Dykes & Lord.

"It just shows these tech companies are using every single mechanism available in their fight against each other."

Apple has already managed to force its rival's tablet off Australia's shop shelves once last year, although the move was later overruled.

A full hearing into Apple's case versus Samsung is scheduled to run between July and October.

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