A German court issued a preliminary injunction barring Samsung from selling its tablet computer in most of the European Union after Apple Inc. said its rival copied its products and intends to protect its intellectual property.

The ruling is expected to be a painful blow for Samsung, whose Galaxy Tab touchscreen tablet is widely considered to be the most promising competitor to Apples iPad, which currently dominates the tablet computer market.  The companies have been wrestling in courtrooms across the globe since the dispute began in April, after Apple claimed in a U.S. lawsuit that Galaxy products imitate Apple designs and technology. In retaliation Samsung - which supplies memory chips for Apple - filed lawsuits against its rival in South Korea, Japan, Germany and the U.S.

"It's no coincidence that Samsung's latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging," Apple spokeswoman  Kristin Huguet said in a statement. "This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."

Samsung representatives have not commented on the decision.

In Australia, Samsung has agreed to delay sales of a version of its Galaxy tablet until an Apple lawsuit in the country is resolved.  Apple is also seeking a court order to block sales of the product in the U.S. until a trial can be held on its patent-infringement claims.

Under the guidelines of the German decision, Samsung Galaxy tablets cannot be sold in any EU country besides the Netherlands. However, the patent news blog Foss Patents reports that Apple has filed a separate lawsuit in the Netherlands as well due to differences in competition law.

Apple's net profit more than doubled to $7.31 billion in the quarter ending June 25 due to the worldwide popularity of both iPhones and iPads. The company reported that it sold 9.25 million iPads during the quarter, a 183 percent increase compared to the same period last year. Shortly after Apple released its record-breaking profits, Samsung announced it will no longer release any data regarding smart phone and tablet computer sales figures.