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 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.