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Korean court: Apple, Samsung infringed each other's patents

A court in Seoul has ruled that Apple and Samsung infringed each other's patents and must pay damages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

A Seoul court has ruled that Apple and Samsung violated each other's patents, has prohibited the companies from selling the infringing devices in South Korea, and has awarded both companies fairly insignificant damages, the Wall Street Journal reported this evening.

The three-judge panel in the Seoul Central District Court also ruled that there was "no possibility" that smartphone buyers could confuse devices from the companies, the Journal reported -- an interesting fact given the headline-grabbing trial currently before a jury in Silicon Valley. In that trial, which is just one part of the international struggle between the two companies over intellectual property, Apple has raised the issue of consumer confusion.

"There are lots of external design similarities between the iPhone and Galaxy S, such as rounded corners and large screens...but these similarities had been documented in previous products," Reuters quoted one of the judges as saying in the Seoul case.

"Given that it's very limited to make big design changes in touch-screen based mobile products in general...and the defendant [Samsung] differentiated its products with three buttons in the front and adopted different designs in [the] camera and [on the] side, the two products have a different look," Reuters quoted the judge as saying.

The judge also said company logos on the devices would make it hard for consumers to mix them up, and that buyers also look at price, brand, applications, operating systems, and services when choosing a product, Reuters reported.

The Journal reported that the court ruled Apple had violated two of Samsung's wireless technology patents, while Samsung violated one of Apple's patents -- for bounce-back technology. The icons Samsung uses on its devices do not violate Apple's patents, the Journal reported the court as ruling.

Apple must pay Samsung a paltry $17,650 in damages for each patent violated, and Samsung must pay Apple $22,000. Reuters said the small size of the damage fees was owing to the small size of the Korean market.

The Journal reported that the devices that have been banned include Apple's iPhone 4 and iPad 2 and Samsung's Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Nexus smartphones and Galaxy Tab and Galaxy 10.1 tablets.

The companies are free to take the decision to an appeals court and, eventually, to South Korea's Supreme Court, the Journal reported.

Update, 8:55 p.m. PT: The initial takes of this story relied on early reports from Reuters and Bloomberg. The story has been restructured in light of new information from the Journal.

Update, 9:20 p.m. PT: Adds judge's quote regarding external design similarities between the iPhone and Galaxy S.

Update, 9:47 p.m. PT: Adds paraphrase of judge's comments about company logos on the devices and other matters. Adds other details throughout.