Court calls for mediation in Samsung-Apple fight

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Court calls for mediation in Samsung-Apple fight

Three-month long trial begins.

The Federal Court judge overseeing the court room battle between Apple and Samsung in Australia has labelled the case "ridiculous" and called for the parties to resolve the matter through mediation.

After a year of legal quarrelling and — at one point a ban on Samsung's key rival to the iPad — the two consumer electronics giants began full court hearings on Monday in what is expected to last at least three months.

The Australian case arose in July last year, when Apple said Samsung copied the design of some of its tablet and smart phone devices. Samsung has since launched a counterclaim in Australia alleging that Apple infringed a number of South Korean technology firm's 3G data transmission  patents.

The lawsuits from both companies are being heard as one case in the Australian federal court.

But the primary Federal Court judge, Justice Annabelle Bennett, continued to cast doubt over either party's intentions.

"Why on earth are these proceedings going ahead?" she said in court yesterday, according to a Bloomberg report.

Justice Bennett has continued to push for a resolution between the parties through mediation, giving them a week to tell her why the dispute shouldn't be resolved in that manner.

Samsung claims Apple is infringing on three patents covering data transmission over wireless 3G spectrum. At first, Apple refused to pay a licensing fee for technology that allows phones to multi-task, such as accepting calls while connecting to the internet, according to Samsung's lawyer Neil Young.

However, Apple was willing to pay the licensing fee at the beginning of the trial according to the company's lawyer Stephen Burley. This time around, Samsung refused, a situation that drew Justice Bennett's ire and prompted a "it's just ridiculous" remark.

While any decision in the Australian case is unlikely to have a substantial impact in other jurisdictions like Europe or the United States where the technology giants are suing each other, lawyers say the trial proceedings could reshape the legal strategies employed by Apple and Samsung in other countries.

Mark Summerfield, a patent lawyer and senior associate with Melbourne-based law firm Watermark, said "there's no doubt there's a strategic and psychological effect" attached to the Australian case. "Courts in other countries will watch what is happening here," he said.

Apple and Samsung have been fighting across 10 countries since April 2011 over patents covering smartphones and tablets, with the Australian dispute centering on touch-screen technology used in Samsung's new Galaxy 10.1 tablet.

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.

Summerfield said unless the two companies come to a global settlement, the Australian case is likely to run until well into 2014 as an appeal to any ruling at the end of the current trial "is a 100 percent certainty."

Apple and Samsung representatives declined to comment on Monday at the hearing.

Despite Justice Bennett's calls for mediation, the parties are expected to continue hearings this week.

(Reporting by Juha Saarinen and Jane Wardell; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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