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Apple’s tablets are ‘cooler’ than Samsung’s, UK judge rules

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Samsung’s tablets are “not as cool” as Apple’s (s AAPL), a senior British judge ruled today. No, I’m not making that up – it’s a real judicial quote and, believe it or not, it should come as music to Samsung’s ears.

High Court judge Colin Birss was giving his verdict in one of the many, many court cases rattling on between Samsung and Apple. As with the recent U.S. ruling that saw the Galaxy Tab banned there, and a similar case in Germany half a year ago, this one was to do with design patents.

Samsung had pre-emptively asked the High Court to rule that its Galaxy Tabs (the 7.7″, 8.9″ and 10.1″ models) didn’t look too much like the iPad, and Apple counterclaimed to say there was infringement going on.

Here’s what Birss had to say about Samsung’s tablets:

From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design; but the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back. They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool. The overall impression produced is different. Conclusion: the Samsung tablets do not infringe Apple’s registered design No. 000181607-0001.”

Good to have that settled then, right? Well no.

You and I both know that this idiotic case will keep rearing its swivel-eyed head again and again, with only the country and the name of the judge changing each time.

Read that ruling. Look through it in all the detail with which it was written. Marvel at the fact that the first example of prior tablet-like design that Samsung submitted to the court was, in all seriousness, the Etch-A-Sketch. Choke at the time being wasted by legal systems around the world, having to come up with analysis like this:

“Most of the corners and edges of the Apple design are rounded but this edge is relatively sharp. There was a suggestion that this crisp edge plays a part in the enhancement of the appearance of thinness. I do not accept that. The impression of thinness is enhanced by the curve at the back, not by the crisp edge at the front.”

Seriously? This patent war is crazy enough when it’s dealing with functionality (should a concept such as unified search be patentable, as U.S. judge Lucy Koh believes?) but it goes right into jaw-on-the-floor territory when it comes to the design stuff. Lest we forget, this is what Apple’s lawyers suggested to a U.S. court last year, regarding how its competitors could avoid infringing on the iPad design:

“Overall shapes that are not rectangular with four flat sides or that do not have four rounded corners; front surfaces that are not completely flat or clear and that have substantial adornment; thick frames rather than a thin rim around the front surface; and profiles that are not thin […] or that have a cluttered appearance.”

We’re looking at a schoolyard spat dressed up in adult legalisms. Apple, Samsung, lawyers… please stop wasting everyone’s time with this pettiness.

7 Responses to “Apple’s tablets are ‘cooler’ than Samsung’s, UK judge rules”

  1. Mansion House

    Apple will still find themselves surprised on the ruling that this case will produce. I’m all for the judge lifting the ban as Apple does not have the ‘God Given Right’ to dominate the industry that they think they have! In fact in my opinion they are fighting for their lives. Log onto: to read background to this. Steve Jobs must be turning in his grave!

  2. GigaLoam

    None of this would be taken seriously if Apple weren’t involved. The reality distortion field lives on and is currently convincing the world to treat them as the cool, altruistic rebel next door instead of the litigious, profit hungry international mega corporation they are.

  3. The Gnome

    I actually think design is the one area of patent litigation that has merit. Code… yea, I can see it… but flat out copying design is what fools consumers (and does NOT benefit consumers). Having Samsung design off Apple’s work should not be allowed to continue. Just varying the slightest bit, IMHO, is not good enough. Its obvious Samsung copy-cats their way where others do not. Why can’t they design their own stuff like HTC, Motorola etc. (then again it appears copying has worked for them)

    It is clear you can’t rely on consumers to vote with their $ when it comes to design… they aren’t smart enough to know how shameful Samsung is acting, and many will buy the cheapest product if they look similar.

    • NeedName

      Design patents would be OK IF. . . they were actually on the current product.

      The iphone EU design patent includes designs of BlackBerry & Nokia devices. Yeah, that’s what the iphone looks like.

      They ought to be nothing more than pictures of the current product.

      The ipad design patent looks nothing like an ipad other than somewhat rectangular with rounded corners. No home button, no logo/design on the back, etc. Actually it looks more like the ‘Knight rider’ tablet than the ipad.

      As far as a company designing off another company. THEY ALL DO IT, especially apple, only fanbois think their company doesn’t do it.

      Here’s the actual ruling for anyone interested:

      “Samsung had requested this voluntary trial in September 2011, in order to oppose Apple’s ongoing efforts to reduce consumer choice and innovation in the tablet market through their excessive legal claims and arguments. Apple has insisted that the three Samsung tablet products infringe several features of Apple’s design right, such as ‘slightly rounded corners,’ ‘a flat transparent surface without any ornamentation,’ and ‘a thin profile.'”However, the High Court dismissed Apple’s arguments by referring to approximately 50 examples of prior art, or designs that were previously created or patented, from before 2004. These include the Knight Ridder (1994), the Ozolin (2004), and HP’s TC1000 (2003). The court found numerous Apple design features to lack originality, and numerous identical design features to have been visible in a wide range of earlier tablet designs from before 2004.”Equally important, the court also found distinct differences between the Samsung and Apple tablet designs, which the court claimed were apparent to the naked eye. For instance, the court cited noticeable differences in the front surface design and in the thinness of the side profile. The court found the most vivid differences in the rear surface design, a part of tablets that allows designers a high degree of freedom for creativity, as there are no display panels, buttons, or any technical functions. Samsung was recognised by the court for having leveraged such conditions of the rear surface to clearly differentiate its tablet products through ‘visible detailing.’