A trade judge in the United States said Samsung had infringed four technology patents belonging to iPhone manufacturer Apple. The decision is still to be reviewed and confirmed by the commission of the US International Trade Commission (ITC), but the statement late Wednesday by the commission’s, Judge Thomas Pender, indicates strongly that the final ruling will be in Apple’s favour.

The two electronics giants, which together make around half of the world’s smart phones, are locked in mutual lawsuits in several countries. The South Korean company says Apple stole data management and mobile communication technology, while the iPhone maker says Samsung copied elements of its device’s appearance and user interface.

The judge said Samsung had infringed Apple’s design for the front face of the iPhone and its touch-screen technology. The ITC, which is to finish its investigation by February 25, has the authority to block imports.

But “an import ban would not mean [Samsung] products disappear from the US market,” because the South Korean company already has alternative technology solutions, German intellectual patent expert Florian Mueller said.

Earlier Wednesday, a Dutch court ruled that the touch-screens of Samsung’s Galaxy range of smart phones were satisfactorily different to those of the iPhone. The decision was in line with similar rulings in Britain and Germany.

Apple on Tuesday unveiled a range of new products including a smaller version of the iPad tablet computer.

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