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Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has been going tooth and nail after big Android device makers, especially Samsung, accusing them in courts worldwide of lifting designs and other features from Apple products like the iPad and iPhone. But one case decided yesterday in Spain illuminated a couple of key facts: Apple’s been targeting much smaller Android licensees, too; and despite initial success against Samsung in markets like Germany and Australia, Apple is not winning everywhere.
The case in Spain started a year ago, when a small firm based in the east of Spain, called NT-K (short for Nuevas Tecnologías y Energías Catalá) received a letter from Apple, claiming a new Android-based tablet that it developed, called the NT-K Pad, copied the iPad tablet. In the letter, Apple ordered NT-K to destroy its stock. When NT-K refused, it was landed with an injunction.
As part of the process, the company’s devices got seized by Spanish customs officials and NT-K found itself listed on a piracy register, according to a blog post from the company (translated here). Then Apple’s case got expanded to a criminal suit, filed in December 2010.
Yesterday, however, a court ruled that the devices in question do not infringe the Community design rights that Apple claimed.
Case closed? Actually, no: it looks like the headache for Apple won’t be ending here.
NT-K now says that it will be filing an antitrust complaint against Apple, claiming loss of earnings, and loss of potential future business.
You could argue that a company defending its design rights should be defending them in every case, big and small, but at least in this case, NT-K is now painting Apple as a big fat bully, which is likely to resonate with others (regardless of whether it is true):
We are a small company, and like many others in these times of economic crisis we are trying to get ahead. It seems grossly unfair that a company the caliber of Apple has to use its dominant influence [against us].
The implications of this case could go beyond NT-K, too. Foss Patents, which brought this case to paidContent’s attention, points out that the Community design right is the same one that Apple asserted against Samsung in its cases in Germany.
What does that mean? The fact that this got overturned in Spain could come up again in those cases that Apple is bringing against Android-based device makers in Europe and potentially elsewhere, all of which are still ongoing.