The iPad alongside Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Apple has been handed yet another blow in a U.K. courtroom after the High Court of England & Wales sided with Samsung today and decided that the Korean company’s Galaxy Tab series does not infringe Apple’s designs. The judge said Samsung’s products are recognizably different to Apple’s, and are therefore free to remain on sale in the U.K.
Samsung delivered its full statement to Pocket-lint this morning, in which it insists the company requested this voluntary trial in September 2011 to “oppose Apple’s ongoing efforts to reduce consumer choice and innovation.”
The company also notes that the High Court referred to approximately 50 examples of tablet designs that were created or patented prior to the iPad, and ruled that several design similarities are visible on a wide range of designs from before 2004.
The full statement reads:
In a ruling on July 9, 2012, the High Court of England & Wales sided with Samsung that the designs of the Galaxy Tab series of products are ‘different’ from an Apple tablet design, and do not infringe Apple’s Registered Community Design No. 181607-0001. Samsung products subject to this trial were the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Galaxy Tab 8.9, and the Galaxy Tab 7.7.
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.’
Samsung welcomes today’s ruling by the High Court, which affirms Samsung’s commitment to protect its own intellectual property rights while respecting those of other companies. Samsung believes Apple’s excessive legal claims based on such a generic design right can harm not only the industry’s innovation as a whole, but also unduly limit consumer choice.
Apple is yet to provide a statement of its own on the matter, but you can almost be sure that the Cupertino company will appeal today’s decision. It has been fighting hard to make Samsung pay for allegedly copying its iOS devices — right down to the packaging — and it certainly won’t back down easy.
This is the second time in as many weeks a U.K. court has ruled against Apple. Just last week, a judge ruled in favor of HTC over claims the Taiwanese smartphone vendor was guilty of infringing four of Apple’s touchscreen patents, including one that covers its famous slide-to-unlock feature.