Apple Inc scored a big victory in its patent infringement battle against Samsung Electronics after a German court barred the Korean firm from temporarily selling its flagship Galaxy tablet in the European Union except the Netherlands.
The court order comes a week after Samsung was forced to delay the Australian launch of its latest Galaxy tablet because of similar lawsuits.
Apple has said Samsung's Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablets "slavishly" copied the iPhone and iPad. It has sued in the United States, Australia and elsewhere. Samsung has countersued Apple.
"There's no doubt the court decision will have an adverse effect on Samsung. Samsung is clashing with Apple in many places, which could result in a temporary fall in sales and increase costs related to litigation," said Lee Seung-woo, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities in Seoul.
By 0230 GMT, Samsung shares were up 0.8% in a broader market up 1.2% after sharp falls over the past few days.
Samsung has been locked in a battle with Apple over smartphone and tablet patents since April. The Galaxy gadgets are seen as among the biggest challengers to Apple's mobile devices, which have achieved runaway success worldwide.
Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet confirmed that a district court in the German city of Dusseldorf granted the preliminary injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1. It was not immediately clear why the order did not include the Netherlands.
The Korean company, Asia's biggest technology company by revenue, said it would challenge the decision.
"The request for an injunction was filed with no notice to Samsung, and the order was issued without any hearing or presentation of evidence from Samsung," Samsung said.
"We will take all necessary measures to ensure Samsung's innovative mobile communications devices are available to customers in Europe and around the world."
Samsung is the world's largest maker of memory chips and televisions, and is also the No.2 maker of mobile phones.
The intensifying quarrel between Apple and Samsung has triggered expectations some of the pair's $5 billion-plus relationship may be up for grabs. Samsung counts Apple as its biggest customer, making chips and other parts central to Apple's mobile devices.
"Samsung's collision with Apple in the mobile arena could have a spillover effect on other businesses such as chips," said Lee.
The well-reviewed Galaxy Tab 10.1 was only recently launched in Europe and is in the early stages of being rolled out. For now, the iPad is the market leader.
Apple sold 14 million iPads in the first half of this year worldwide, compared with analysts' sales estimates of about 7.5 million units for the Galaxy Tab over 2011.
Competing products including Research In Motion's PlayBook and Motorola's Xoom have received lukewarm reviews, while Hewlett Packard's TouchPad is a late entrant in the market, which already has more than 100 devices, mostly running on Google's Android operating system.
Web of litigation
Apple is one participant in a web of litigation among phone makers and software firms over who owns patents used in smartphones, as rivals aggressively rush into the smartphone and tablet market.
Some analysts say Samsung faces the challenge of moving beyond being a hardware company, clever at copying ideas, to becoming more creative and better adept at software at a time when consumer gadgets are getting smarter.
Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga, said Samsung was one of the few global companies with the ability to enjoy success in both the smartphone and tablet markets.
"However, if Samsung is violating Apple's IP (intellectual property) rights, we believe Apple could enjoy even further success in these markets in the coming years," White said in a note to clients.