Samsung did not copy 'cooler' Apple iPad, British High Court rules
Apple has suffered a second defeat in the British courts at the hands of a competitor in less than a week, after the High Court ruled Samsung's Galaxy Tab range does not unlawfully copy the iPad's "cool" minimalist design.
Apple sued its Korean rival last year, insisting that the Galaxy Tab design “slavishly copies” the iPad.
In a judgment published today the High Court rejected the claims. There was some consolation for Apple, however, after a judge ruled that Samsung’s designs were “not as cool” as the iPad.
“They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design,” Judge Birss QC wrote.
“They are not as cool. The overall impression produced is different.”
The case is part of a bitter, worldwide intellectual property row between Apple and manufacturers of smartphones and tablets that run Google's Android mobile operating system.
The court found two main differences between Samsung's tablets and the iPad. First and “most significant”, Galaxy Tabs were significantly thinner than Apple’s designs, which were “about twice as thick as any of the Galaxy Tabs”.
Second, said the judge, the detailing on the back of Samsung’s designs marked them out as unusual in the tablet market.
“When I first saw the Samsung products in this case I was struck by how similar they look to the Apple design when they are resting on a table,” he said. “They look similar because they both have the same front screen. It stands out.”
But he said “informed users” would be able to spot the difference.
“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,” the judgment said.
Samsung, which as well as making the biggest rivals to the iPhone and iPad is a major supplier of parts for them, welcomed the ruling and accused Apple of “ongoing efforts to reduce consumer choice and innovation in the tablet market through their excessive legal claims and arguments”.
“The court cited noticeable differences in the front surface design and in the thinness of the side profile,” a spokesman said.
“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.”
The defeat is Apple’s second at the High Court in less than a week. On Wednesday it lost a dispute over "prize" technology patents to HTC, the Taiwanese Android manufacturer. The court found the patents were either invalid, in part because they covered “obvious” features of the iPhone and other smartphones, or that HTC had not infringed them.
Apple declined to comment on the iPad design judgment, but reiterated its earlier claims against Samsung.
“It's no coincidence that Samsung's latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging,” a spokesman said.
“This kind of blatant copying is wrong and, as we've said many times before, we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.”
Apple still has design infringement claims pending against Samsung in American and German courts. It also has 21 days to appeal against the British ruling.