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Appeals court lifts Apple ban on Samsung Galaxy Nexus

October 11, 2012: 1:52 PM ET

Overturns an injunction based on 1 of 8 patents Android is alleged to have infringed

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

FORTUNE -- Samsung won a small victory in a federal appeals court Thursday, but to understand what it means you have to pay close attention.

That's because although the judge whom the court ruled had "abused" her discretion by banning sales of a Samsung smartphone in July is Judge Lucy Koh, the same judge who oversaw the trial that resulted in a $1 billion verdict for Apple (AAPL) and against Samsung, this is a different case, one that Apple filed in Feb. 2012 and which isn't scheduled to go to trial until March 2014.

Also, although the phone in question is made by Samsung, it's not Samsung's big seller, the Galaxy SIII. Rather, it's the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, jointly developed by Google (GOOG) and the Korean manufacturer to showcase Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich"). It will be one year old next week and getting more than a little long in the tooth. Samsung admitted as much when it argued that sales of the device were so poor that Apple needn't fear for the iPhone's future on its account.

Finally, although the appeals court ruled that Judge Koh had erred by accepting Apple's pre-trial argument that there was abundant evidence that the company would suffer "irreparable harm" if Samsung were to sell the Galaxy Nexus in the U.S., it did not rule on whether Samsung had infringed, as Apple claimed, a patent covering a method for searching multiple databases used by Siri. Nor did it have anything to say about the other seven Apple patents Samsung is alleged to have infringed.

Those issues won't be decided for another 17 months, when the second Apple v. Samsung trial is scheduled to begin.

Until then, for what its worth, Samsung is free to import and sell the Galaxy Nexus to anyone in the 50 states who still wants one.

AllThingsD's John Paczkowski has the text of the appeals court's ruling here.

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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