As we have previously reported, from mid-2011 until today Samsung and Apple have locked horns in an intensive patent dispute in the Federal Court of Australia. However, the two mobile handset giants appear to have had a change in legal strategy. In a joint email issued by the two companies today, they stated:

“Samsung and Apple have agreed to drop all litigation between the two companies outside the United States. This agreement does not involve any licensing arrangements, and the companies are continuing to pursue the existing cases in US courts.”

The Australian proceedings were complex and hard fought, with Apple accusing Samsung of blatantly copying the look and feel of its iPhones and iPads (with respect to aspects of both hardware and software), and Samsung alleging that Apple infringed its patents on aspects of wireless transmission technology. Due to the number of patents and issues involved (including issues relating to the competition implications of enforcing standards-essential patents), the proceedings were divided into different stages and between two judges.

However, the Australian proceedings formed only one of the fronts in the ongoing war between Samsung and Apple. Their change in legal strategy today will affect proceedings in Germany, The Netherlands, France, Italy, the UK, Japan and Samsung’s home country of South Korea.

Despite an ongoing commercial relationship between Samsung and Apple (Samsung supplying some key components for use in Apple devices), the change in legal strategy reflects a streamlining of their disputes, rather than a truce. As no licences have been entered into, there is a real possibility of future disputation. In addition, the US proceedings remain on foot, proceedings in which Apple has been predominantly successful.

The change in legal strategy comes at a time when Samsung’s dominance in the Android marketplace is coming under threat from Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi, who are increasingly popular in their home country and make capable yet inexpensive phones, and Apple is reported to be poised to take a page out of Samsung’s playbook and release an iPhone with a larger display.