The court, in the western city of Düsseldorf, said Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 computer, a rival to Apple’s iconic iPad, had infringed key patent laws.
Presiding judge Johanna Brückner-Hoffmann said there was a “clear impression of similarity” between the Apple and the Samsung products. As an example, she cited the “minimalist, modern form” of the two firms’ products, with flat screens and rounded edges.
However, the court limited the sales ban to Germany, despite ruling in a previous judgement that the ban should include all of Europe.
The court noted its authority “to order a Europe-wide ban for a firm headquartered outside the European Union” was only valid “if this firm has a German subsidiary,” it said in a statement.
The Korean firm, which denies Apple’s argument that it had “slavishly” copied the market-leading iPhone and iPad, had to pull its latest Galaxy Tab 7.7 inch from a major electronics fair in Berlin earlier this week in view of the case.
Industry analysts say that in the fast-moving world of tablet computers, which have a very short shelf-life before being replaced by improved products, even a temporary ban on sales can be fatal.
The two firms are also locked in legal battles in Australia, the United States and Asia. Samsung has responded to Apple’s accusations by filing suits of its own in Seoul, asking for a ban on sales of the US firm’s products in South Korea.
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, hailed by some in the industry as an “iPad killer,” has been a huge-selling rival to the touch-screen phenomenon.
Despite their prickly competition, the two actually have a close business relationship.
Apple was Samsung’s second-biggest client in 2010 after Japan’s Sony, accounting for four percent of the South Korean firm’s 155 trillion won ($143 billion) annual revenue.