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According to a preliminary assessment (via Reuters(s tri)) from the Düsseldorf regional court in Germany on Thursday, Apple (s aapl) isn’t very likely to succeed in its attempts to get the redesigned Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1N tablet barred from sale in that country via injunction.
Samsung released the Galaxy Tab 10.1N in Germany after an earlier ruling found its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in violation of physical design patents, since there existed a “clear impression of similarity” between Samsung’s original 10.1-inch slate and Apple’s own iPad 2. This time around, however, Presiding Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann, who was also responsible for the ruling in Apple’s favor, said, “according to the court’s assessment, the defendant [Samsung] has moved away sufficiently from the legally protected design.”
Samsung introduced the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, a version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 specific to Germany, in late November, and Apple sought to have it banned, too, quickly following its introduction. The 10.1N introduces a metal border with front-facing speakers, which means Samsung’s tablet doesn’t have edge-to-edge glass on the face of its device, one of the key elements of Apple’s protected design.
The Düsseldorf court still has to make a final ruling, and there’s no stated timeframe for that decision. Given the court already seems pretty confident in its position at this stage, however, we can expect a ruling in the near future, and probably not one favorable to Apple.
Apple has also recently begun design-based proceedings against Samsung Galaxy devices (both phones and tablets) in Australia. This development in Germany means that Samsung has at least one strategy in place to counter design-based rulings in other markets, too, at least for its tablet designs. Should an Australian court find in favor of Apple, expect similar cosmetic makeovers to start to roll out there, too. Forcing surface changes still costs Apple’s competitors money, but it doesn’t further Apple’s larger apparent goal of undermining Android’s viability as a competitive mobile platform.