If it sounded like Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) might just agree to some kind of deal with Samsung in Australia — which would have let Samsung launch its legally-disputed 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab tablet in the country — you might need your hearing checked.
Today, Apple formally rejected Samsung’s compromise offer, presented in court last week, and said that it would like the case to go to trial in order to reach a definite conclusion to the patent dispute. Now the Korean company says it is facing up to the prospect of having to cancel its release of its 10.1-inch tablet this year.
Apple lawyer Steven Burley said that Samsung’s offer provided “no basis for compromise,” according to a report of the proceedings from Reuters. “The main reason we are here is to prevent the launch (of the Galaxy tablet) and maintain the status quo,” he added.
Lawyers for Samsung say the company will decide the fate of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the next two weeks. If the company is not allowed to launch the tablet within that timeframe, it will miss the holiday cycle and may as well argue its case to its natural conclusion, which could take the two companies well into March 2012.
But if Samsung then wins the case, it may prove to be a hollow victory: because of how fast technology is moving these days, and the rate at which tablets with new features are getting released, it will be “commercially dead” if delayed for that long, said Neil Young, a lawyer for Samsung.
The iPad tablet maker has been suing Samsung over design and patent infringements, and Samsung has already had to delay the launch of the Tab 10.1 by two months as a result of the case. In that time, it has gradually removed features that Apple claimed were infringements on its intellectual property, although at least one claimed infringement, over touchscreen technology, appears to remain.
Up to now, the delay to sell the Tab 10.1 in Australia has been voluntary, but now the judge presiding over the case, Annabelle Bennett, is considering a temporary, court-ordered injunction on the sales. She says she still needs time to consider whether to order the injunction.
According to Florian Mueller, a patent blogger, there is not much material difference between a self-imposed delay from Samsung versus an injunction by the court. The key difference, he says, is that the injunction could have wider ramifications in other courts where the two are suing each other. In all, Apple and Samsung are facing off in some 20 legal cases across nine countries, with both sides seeking injunctions on device sales and not showing much scope for bargaining and compromise at the moment.
It’s still not clear what was entailed in the compromise agreement offered by Samsung: whether it was another technology concession, even some kind of royalty agreement, or both or something completely different. A report in Bloomberg mentions that one bone of contention between the two companies has been the start date for the actual trial. Apple has wanted it to begin as soon as possible, while Samsung has claimed that it needed time to collect evidence, and that it would need until next year to do so.
It may have been that Samsung was offering to Apple an agreement to go to trial early, as part of its compromise to give Samsung a chance to start selling the device. If that was the only offering, though, it’s no surprise that Apple said no, since it would have still allowed for some consumer demand to build up around Samsung’s product and the Android “ecosystem” of apps and other services — something that Apple has said it is very keen to avoid.
In that sense, Apple seems to be looking for here is a total shutout.
Of course, there is likely a lot of posturing going on here from both sides, as they seek to highlight the need for the court to side with its own sentiments, so it’s hard to tell how frightened Apple really is by this specific product from Samsung, or whether Samsung really needs more time before going to court and that the courts actions could serve to “kill” the product. There may be a degree of truth to both claims.
Apple and Samsung now await for the next move from Justice Bennett. She will be deciding both on whether to order an injunction and a date for the actual trial to begin.