Thursday, November 1, 2012

If you're saying that a competitor infringes on your design (or, why Samsung is cool in Germany)

I saw a rash of stories pop up regarding some legal issues for Apple in the United Kingdom. Here's InformationWeek's take:

Earlier this year, Apple lost a court case to Samsung in the U.K. regarding the design of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10. Apple accused Samsung of copying its design language, specifically that of the iPad. After losing its appeal on October 18, Apple was ordered by the court to officially apologize to Samsung for suggesting that the Galaxy Tab 10 copied the design of the iPad. Apple issued that apology last week.

The first two segments of the apology quote portions of the ruling about the Galaxy Tab 10, the iPad, and the findings of the judges. It appears as though Apple complied with the judge's ruling. But the last paragraph got Apple in trouble...

Before Apple UK yanks its entire initial statement, I'm going to reproduce it here. This was taken from at 12:30 pm in the afternoon California time.

Samsung / Apple UK judgment

On 9th July 2012 the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that Samsung Electronic (UK) Limited’s Galaxy Tablet Computer, namely the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7 do not infringe Apple’s registered design No. 0000181607-0001. A copy of the full judgment of the High court is available on the following link

In the ruling, the judge made several important points comparing the designs of the Apple and Samsung products:

"The extreme simplicity of the Apple design is striking. Overall it has undecorated flat surfaces with a plate of glass on the front all the way out to a very thin rim and a blank back. There is a crisp edge around the rim and a combination of curves, both at the corners and the sides. The design looks like an object the informed user would want to pick up and hold. It is an understated, smooth and simple product. It is a cool design."

"The informed user's overall impression of each of the Samsung Galaxy Tablets is the following. 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."

That Judgment has effect throughout the European Union and was upheld by the Court of Appeal on 18 October 2012. A copy of the Court of Appeal’s judgment is available on the following link There is no injunction in respect of the registered design in force anywhere in Europe.

However, in a case tried in Germany regarding the same patent, the court found that Samsung engaged in unfair competition by copying the iPad design. A U.S. jury also found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple's design and utility patents, awarding over one billion U.S. dollars in damages to Apple Inc. So while the U.K. court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognized that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung willfully copied Apple's far more popular iPad.

Forget about the last paragraph - my issues with the statement begin with the third and fourth paragraphs, which basically state that the Samsung doesn't infringe upon Apple's design because Apple is so much cooler.

Which brings me to a point that I raised some time ago. There is a layperson's way to determine whether Samsung infringed upon Apple's patents, and it doesn't require lawyers or court cases in multiple nations. I call my method the MG Siegler test. It works as follows:

Step 1: Place a Samsung device in front of MG Siegler.

Step 2: Examine his mouth to see if he is drooling.

Step 3: If Siegler is drooling, Samsung is guilty of infringement. If Siegler is not drooling, Siegler is not guilty of infringement.

We could have saved a lot of headaches if people had just followed advice like this.

Which brings me to the last paragraph of Apple's statement - the one that may have gotten Apple in trouble with UK judges because it says that judges in Germany and the United States upheld Apple's claims.

Of course, this means that in Germany and the United States, Samsung is cool.

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