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, 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.

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