Apple and Samsung are still fighting it out in courts all over the world, generally with Apple claiming that Samsung copied specific, distinctive elements of the design of their products, particularly iPhones. Intellectual property court cases are potentially very complex, and tend to drag on for several years, at enormous cost to both parties. For that reason, one of the tactics used early on is for one side or other to try to get an injunction preventing the other side from selling the products that it claims are in violation of its intellectual property rights.

As is so often the case when two large companies battle it out in the courtroom, both sides need deep pockets, but any situation where one successfully blocks the other from even selling their goods is going to exacerbate that enormously. This is even more especially the case with an arena like phone technology, where the latest handsets are often manufactured with only the slimmest of profit margins, and where their value drops rapidly in a matter of months as more advanced models are released. A potential two- or three-year trial, with sales banned in the meantime, could cost millions in lost Samsung phone deals, warehousing, and depreciation of the value of their stock.

A judge in the USA has just thrown out Apple’s request for an injunction to prevent Samsung selling any Galaxy devices. Apple had asked for the injunction because they believe the Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets infringe their intellectual property, and wanted to stop sales while the matter is still in dispute, which could, as mentioned above, take a year or more. This is clearly a significant victory for Samsung, if only a temporary one that may or may not have a bearing on the eventual result of the trial.

Samsung are very happy with the situation, though, as they made clear in an official statement: “This ruling confirms our long-held view that Apple’s arguments lack merit. In particular, the court has recognized that Samsung has raised substantial questions about the validity of certain Apple design patents. We are confident that we can demonstrate the distinctiveness of Samsung’s mobile devices when the case goes to trial next year.”

It is likely that Apple will keep fighting. When they had a similar outcome in Australia, with a court throwing out their attempt to block the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from sale, Apple successfully appealed, so it is once more banned in Australia – if, probably only temporarily.

Over 20 legal cases are now pending or ongoing around the world between Apple and Samsung. Apple sued Samsung in the UK in September, again over patent infringement, probably relating to the Galaxy line, and Apple’s claim that they are copies that are hurting the sale of iPhone deals in the UK. Again, though, there are still no details on that case.

In the Netherlands, a court granted Apple a temporary ban on Samsung Galaxy S IIs and Galaxy Aces in August, another blow to Samsung, who import many handsets to Europe through the Dutch port of Rotterdam. The ruling in that case applied not just to the phones, but the Android software running them. This could have far wider implications, particularly if other European courts follow the Netherland’s lead, and if Apple pushes things further to try to claim that the Android OS itself infringes on their intellectual property.

The whole situation seems to be breaking new legal ground, due to the complexities of patent law and the very new nature of the technology, so the final ramifications could be surprising. Samsung’s arguments are likely to revolve around the idea that many of Apple’s claims of similarity are irrelevant, because similarities between any pair of smartphones or tablets are inevitable due to form following function.