By Amy Pyett
SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian court on Friday extended a ban on sales of Samsung Electronics' latest Galaxy tablet in the country by at least a week, further delaying the South Korean technology firm's attempt to sell the device to Christmas shoppers.
Samsung is locked in legal battle with Apple Inc over patents and the latest court decision is a small victory for the U.S. firm in its bid to prevent the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, considered one of the main alternatives to Apple's Ipad.
The Australian ban was set to expire by 4 p.m (0500 GMT) on Friday but will now run until Dec 9 so the High Court can hear an Apple appeal against a court decision this week to overturn a temporary ban in place since late July.
Justice John Dyson Heydon said the orders made by the Federal Court on Nov 30 "be stayed pending the termination of applicants application for special leave to appeal."
Samsung is the world's top smartphone maker, but a distant second to Apple in tablets. The biggest legal battle for the global technology industry across 10 countries has undermined its efforts to close the gap.
An Australian patent lawyer told Reuters the court was likely to decide next week whether Samsung will be allowed to resume sales before a final hearing due next year, when the product would be obsolete. The lawyer, who is not involved in the case, declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The High Court, which is the final court of appeal, will decide if Apple has the right to appeal.
On Wednesday, Samsung won a rare legal victory after an Australian Federal Court unanimously decided to lift a preliminary injunction, imposed by a lower court, on sales of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1.
The court also granted Apple a stay on lifting the sales ban until Friday afternoon, which has now been extended by a week by the high court.
Samsung said in a statement on Friday it believed Apple had no basis for appeal and would "vigorously" oppose it in court.
The quarrel has triggered expectations that some of the pair's $5 billion-plus relationship may be up for grabs. Samsung counts Apple as its biggest customer and makes parts central to Apple's mobile devices.
Samsung shares were trading 0.5 percent lower at 0046 GMT, while the broader market was up 0.2 percent.
Apple has accused Samsung of "slavishly" ripping off its designs, while Samsung has launched suits against Apple.
The legal battle in Australia doesn't stop at tablet computers. Samsung has sought to block sales of Apple's latest iPhone 4S, which went on sale in early October, by filing preliminary sales injunction requests in four countries including Australia.
An Australian court has agreed to hear that case in March and April of 2012, with sales allowed to continue as normal ahead of the hearing on alleged patent infringements.
(Writing by Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by Ed Davies)