U.S. court clears Samsung phone, deals blow to Apple

A U.S. appeals court overturned a preliminary injunction on the sale of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's Galaxy Nexus smartphone on Thursday, dealing a blow to Apple Inc in a battle against Google Inc's increasingly popular mobile software.

Apple is waging war on several fronts against Google, whose Android software powers many of the Korean giant's devices. In one of the more visible signs of that battle, a high-wattage trial to determine whether Samsung's products infringed on Apple patents ended in August with a sweeping victory for the iPhone maker.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the district court in California "abused its discretion in entering an injunction." The appeals court has sent the case back to a lower California court for reconsideration.

The Nexus is an ageing product in Samsung's lineup, with a plethora of new tablets and smartphones intended for launch before the holidays. But overturning of the pre-trial ban is a slap across the face for Apple because the patents in the Nexus case - which involve software-enabled features such as click-to-zoom and so on - are directly related to features of Android, which powers the majority of the world's smartphones.

On Wednesday, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt called the intensifying struggle between Apple and his company a "defining fight" for the future of the mobile industry.

"We've not seen ... competitive fights on this scale," he said during an interview with tech blog AllThingsDigital at New York's 92nd Street Y.

(Reporting By Diane Bartz; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Bernard Orr)