Blog Post

Apple must announce that ‘not as cool’ Samsung tablet not a copy

A British judge raised eyebrows last week when he ruled that Samsung’s tablets did not infringe Apple’s patents because they were not as “cool.” Now, the same judge has followed up with an unusual order that Apple (s aapl) must put a notice on its websites for six months and in U.K. newspapers that Samsung didn’t copy Apple’s iPad.

According to Bloomberg, Judge Colin Birss ruled that the announcements were required to correct prejudice against Samsung. The iPad maker has in the past said that Samsung decided to “slavishly copy” its product and is presently suing the Korean company in courts around the world.

A lawyer for Apple complained that Birss’ order forced it to provide free advertising for Samsung. The order came after a ruling last week in which Birss found that the Galaxy tablets 10.1, 8.9 and 7.7 did not breach Apple’s registered designs because “they do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design,” and “they are not as cool.”

The ruling was significant because it is the first final ruling on the iPad’s design. Other cases in Europe and the United States have turned instead on preliminary injunctions. This group of cases turn on what is known in Europe as “registered designs” and in the U.S. as “design patents” — both refer to a weaker species of patent that protects the way an invention combines function with ornamentation (learn more about Apple’s design patents here).

In a closely watched case near Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. home, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh found that Samsung’s 10.1 Galaxy tablet had infringed on the iPad, but concluded that didn’t matter because the design patents in question would be found invalid on the grounds the tablet design was obvious. An appeals court overturned that ruling, leading Koh to impose a preliminary injunction barring the sale of the tablets.

Ironically, the series of design rulings may not matter very much as the Samsung tablets in question are largely obsolete and have been replaced with newer models that look less like the iPad.

17 Responses to “Apple must announce that ‘not as cool’ Samsung tablet not a copy”

  1. ausnote

    BOYCOTT apple product I say. It looks like the PC mac war again and history is repeating itself.
    apple is just a patent troll if not for a couple of children’s toy
    Nuff said

  2. Stefan Jobling

    The problem that i have with this argument is it lacks context and seems to be more informed by the way the media has reacted to an off hand comment than the ruling itself and as such i would suggest you read the Judgement.

    If however that is to much work here is a brief (and possibly flawed) summary. Please excuse any mistakes ip law is not my subject.

    The community design in question was filed in 2004. It does not conform exactly to the ipad design (nor would you expect it too give its filing date) and apple said during the case that the ipad was not a concrete example of the design. This ruling was not concerned with the validity of the community design but whether the said design had been infringed. Nor should such a design be considered a “patent” design protection is there to primarily to defend against counterfeiting and only offers limited protection if products are distinguishable by an informed user (note: that is not to say it offers no protection only that such protection is significantly narrowed). This process is primarily to defend the aesthetic’s of a product not the function that a product designer seeks to enable.

    Then each of the features relied upon on by Apple were assessed. It was agreed that the front of the design was extremely similar to apples registered design but that there was significant presence of similar designs in the design corpus. It was then said that while the fronts were extremely similar and the sides not dissimilar the back of the products where significantly different from the registered design which emphasised minimalist simplicity. The shape of the design that was protected was viewed as not relevant as it was not as thin as the various galaxy tabs (it was calculated it would twice as thick any give screen size).

    Apples argument that the front of the design was the key feature was rejected and it was stated that any “informed user” who was aware of the design corpus would see the device as part of a family of devices within which the significant differences in design concerned the rear of the devices. As such the significant difference between the samsung tabs rear detailing and the registered design meant that it did not infringe the community design.

    In short he basically said that apple couldn’t claim exclusive design rights to the flat glass front because there was prior art and as such the tabs didn’t infringe. The cool thing was not really relevant at all other than in explaining that informed users can differentiate between the to designs and find Apples more attractive thus implying that apple cannot satisfy the community law requirement for enforcement action. Oh and this wasn’t a patent case or about the ipad design but hey don’t let me spoil all the fun.

    • John B.

      The design argument seems petty to me. There are only so many ways you can make a laptop in an obvious functional form factor. Two sides forming a clam shell operation. The current laptop design is undisputedly the champion choice. It just makes sense.

      Now remove a side, and you end up with a tablet. One side of the tablet naturally has to be a screen. Not round, not oval, not triangular or star shape. It has to be square or rectangled. That’s it. There’s no other obvious functional form choice. Now, this leaves us with the back which is also limited. A tablet is a tablet. No matter what someone tries to do with this basic shape, all will look similar just like the laptop scenerio. If the shape was dramatically changed, it would no longer be a tablet. One must assume and resort to close up interaction to see the dissimilarities just like for rubber tires or washers and dryers etc. It is what it is.

      Apple’s claim of “Blatantly Copying” is childish playground language that should serves no purpose in a courtroom. Infringing on patents or intellectual property is far more admissible legal language and even that can’t be used for obvious common designs. Apple created a popular “Tablet” category. They need to expect that others will intoduce “Similar” tablets to satisfy their consumer base. Just like Apple had to change up their original laptop design to match other’s or die. Does Apple not remember this?

  3. Apple can’t make anything new…. infect they never did except collecting other design and Pyongyang other tech companies to came up slick design. They cant win to make one device for a year compre 50per year, suck it apple

  4. Apple should follow the ruling TO THE LETTER. “A court of law finds Samsung not as cool as the iPad. It’s not a copy because it does not have the same understated and extreme simplicity!”

  5. Biffster

    It’s really very simple. Prior to the iPhone and iPad, no smart phones nor tablets looked or functioned remotely like the Apple designs. Now they all do. If this isn’t slavishly copying, I don’t know what is. This judge is wrong, except for the not-as-cool part, which you can’t tell from just looking at a Samsung tablet that hasn’t been powered on yet.

  6. The Gnome

    Bwahahah.. I can’t wait to see Apple make the UK judge look like a retard with a very cool ad showcasing how cool the iPad is compared to this non-product by Samsuck.

    What a dumb court ruling. Someone seems to have been paid off I think.