A US appeals court Thursday lifted a sales ban on Google-branded Samsung smartphones in a patent fight with Apple, saying there was no evidence sales were driven by features copied from the iPhone.
The appeals court in Washington overturned an injunction issued by a judge in California for the Galaxy Nexus phone as part of the lengthy patent case, saying the lower court "abused its discretion."
Judge Lucy Koh issued the injunction June 29, before a landmark jury ruling which found Samsung illegally copied features from Apple's iconic iPhone.
She ordered the temporary ban, saying that Apple "has shown a likelihood of establishing both infringement and validity" of its patents related to the iPhone's Siri virtual assistant software.
But the appeals court said Apple must show not only that it would suffer "irreparable harm" but "establish that the harm is sufficiently related to the infringement."
"In other words, it may very well be that the accused product would sell almost as well without incorporating the patented feature," the court said in an 18-page opinion.
"And in that case, even if the competitive injury that results from selling the accused device is substantial, the harm that flows from the alleged infringement... is not."
Galaxy Nexus launched in the United States in April, among many using Google's Android mobile platform.
Thursday's ruling opens the door to resuming sales of the Google-branded phone, but is only one part of a massive patent case involving the US and South Korean electronics giants.
Apple, which won a jury award of more than $1 billion for patent infringement, is seeking to ban various Samsung phones and tablets on the basis of that verdict.
Apple has asked the court to ban some of the newer 4G phones from Samsung's Galaxy line and other smartphones from the South Korean firm.