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Original Galaxy Tab 10.1 is still banned, but court rules it's not infringing Apple's design -- sort of

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) has been dealt the latest in a series of mounting losses in its legal campaign to stifle top tablet and smartphone competitor Samsung Electronics, Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930).  International courts are increasingly becoming frustrated at what some claim amounts to be anticompetitive legal "trolling" by both companies, who have flooded international courts with a deluge of lawsuits.

I. Apple's Design Claims -- Going Nowhere Fast

Apple, who initiated the patent spat, has made some controversial claims.  Its lawyers argued that all modern tablets are in infringement of Apple's patented design, stating, "Samsung says Galaxy Tab 10.1, we say any tablet device."

Unfortunately for them, that claim is being tossed out of court.  In Australiathe U.S., and the Netherlands, Apple has already been dealt effective losses in key rulings, after courts rebuffed its request to be granted a design-patent based exclusive monopoly on "minimalist" designs.

Galaxy Tab 10.1N
Samsung redesigned its Galaxy Tab 10.1 to make the 10.1N, a German specific variant that looks to avoid looking anything like the iPad. [Image Source: GSM Android]

That left only Germany where a judge granted Apple a victory on a design basis, with Mannheim court Presiding Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann writing, "The court is of the opinion that Apple’s minimalistic design isn’t the only technical solution to make a tablet computer, other designs are possible. For the informed customer there remains the predominant overall impression that the device looks."

II. Germany Appeals Court Says Samsung Design Does Not Infringe, Bans it Anyway

As in a technology patent based dispute in Australia, the Brueckner-Hofmann ruling was appealed by Samsung and overturned by a higher court.  The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court (an appeals court) ruled that the lower court erred in banning the standard international Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 on a design basis.

The court writes, "The scope of Apple's design is limited. A rimless flat [tablet] patent was already requested in an old U.S. patent application, the so-called "Ozolins design". Incidentally, the distinction "Galaxy Tab 10.1" [is] sufficiently clear from the declared design of Apple. Thus, the [Apple] design patent covers two aesthetically perceptible[ly] parts, a shell and a front panel covering it. The "Galaxy Tab 10.1" by contrast, was constructed in three parts, it consists of a front, a back and a verklammernden (clinging) frame."

The Ozolins design, U.S. Patent Application No. 2004/0041504 A1 -- a minimalist tablet patent that predates Apple's -- was already successfully applied by Samsung to kill design claims in a Dutch lawsuit.
U.S. Display patent

The court, however, did ban both the Galaxy 10.1 (original) and its diminutive twin, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 on grounds that Samsung violated Germany's "unfair competition" laws.  

It seems like bizarro day as the court essentially contradicts itself, stating, "The distribution of the "Galaxy Tab 10.1" [runs] contrary to the law against unfair competition, because the Samsung model unfairly imitates (§ 4 No. 9 b) the Apple Tablet "iPad" [hence violating] the law against unfair competition. Samsung use [of] the outstanding reputation and prestige of the "iPad" [is] unfair."

The ruling is very nebulous and arbitrary to say the least, as it does not exactly specify how Samsung is "unfairly" using Apple's "prestige", particularly considering that it already conceded that the iPad and Galaxy Tab designs are quite different in looks.

III. German Court Says Galaxy Tab 10.1N is Sufficiently Different

Germany's Associated Press equivalent, dpa, reports the latest breaking news in the Samsung v. Apple legal war.  The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court has ruled not to hand Apple a preliminary injunction on the Galaxy Tab 10.1N.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1N is a special design exclusive to the German market.  It contains additional visual flares to differentiate it further from the iPad.  Unsurprisingly, Apple was not satisfied with Samsung's efforts.  It sued trying to block sales, but saw its request for a preliminary injunction refused by a lower court last year.  It then tried to appeal the PI rejection to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court.

Dusseldorf court
Apple has lost another round at the Düsseldorf Higher Regional [appeals] Court in Germany.
[Image Source: All About Samsung]

But the higher court sided with the previously ruling, commenting that the extra design changes, on top of the Tab's already distinctive design, were cumulatively enough to work around both the European patent laws, and the stricter "prestige" based local German competition laws.

The court writes [translated]:
The chamber concluded after a summary of fast-tracked tests that the design of the "Galaxy Tab 10.1 N" has now changed sufficiently to differentiate [Samsung's] product from the design rights granted in Apple's European filing, which shows the design of a Tablet PC. Consequently, it does not fall within this protection area, and there is no infringement. Due to the pre-design changes made by Samsung the "Galaxy Tab 10.1 N " is [also] not in violation of [the] competition law.

In a way, in pushing for a fast-tracked preliminary injunction and then appealing to the higher court when it didn't get it, Apple's lawyers may have scuttled their own ship.  Now that the higher court has ruled that the Galaxy Tab 10.1N does not infringe, it is far less likely that the lower Mannheim court would rule it to be in infringement.

This is a major victory for Samsung, as it means that it can continue to sell in Europe's third largest tablet market (behind France and the UK).

Of course, these rulings all concerned Apple's request to receive a preliminary injunction.  While the rulings indicate Apple is less likely to receive any injunction on the Tab 10.1N, it is possible that it could still score such a win when the final ruling is made.  Regardless of the outcome, that ruling will likely be appealed by whoever loses, so it will still be some time before this particular branch of the lawsuit war comes to its conclusion.

IV. A Long War Ahead

You can't say Apple isn't trying hard -- it's also targeting ten Samsung smartphones and five Samsung tablets (including the Galaxy Tab 10.1N), using four design right claims -- 000748280-0006 and 000888920-0018 [PDF].  Samsung is looking to directly attack the validity of these design claims, filing to have them removed from the EU design patent base [source].  It filed the invalidity claim in Aug. 2011.

Motorola -- whose acquisition by Android phonemaker Google Inc. (GOOG) will be approved or rejected next week -- is also being sued by Apple with regards to the Xoom tablet.  Apple has also tried to bully HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) with a series of international filings.  Its biggest success thus far has been to ban some older model HTC smartphones in the U.S. -- but that ruling will not go into affect until April, giving HTC time to potentially redesign and avoid it.

The Android phonemakers have been actively countersuing Apple.  Motorola has -- so far -- seen the biggest success, scoring a temporary online sales ban on the iPad in Germany, as well as a still-standing ban on the iCloud.  Samsung's claims have been far less successful, though it continues to employ a "carpet bombing" legal approach akin to Apple's [1][2][3].

Samsung is currently the world's largest Android phonemaker.  Apple and Samsung were in a dead heat in terms of smartphone sales in Q4 2012, with Samsung moving 36.5m units and Apple moving 37m.  Overall Apple narrowly outshipped Samsung in smartphones for the full year.  

In tablets, Apple is much farther ahead in sales, although Samsung's Galaxy line still leads non-iPad tablets in sales.  The iPad 2 sold roughly 40 million units in 2011 [1][2][3][4], Samsung moved about several million Galaxy Tabs for the year, reaching shipments to retailers of 2 million in Q4 [source].

V. Judge for Yourself

While it's nice to see Germany finally coming around to common sense with the Galaxy Tab 10.1N ruling, the "unfair competition"-based ruling on the original design is still controversial.

Judge for yourself whether you think the iPad, iPad design patent, and Galaxy Tab (original) are that much like each other. Do the facts support Germany's ban?

Sources: Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court [translated], ITO [translated], dpa [translated]

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RE: Moral Stance
By retrospooty on 2/9/2012 7:33:46 PM , Rating: 5
Oh please. Look, its this guy again, defending Apple, no matter what.

"I base this on the conclusions the courts reached, not my own personal opinion"

Other than that one case, Apple is unanimously losing everything else that goes to court. The few that they won other than that were overturned by a higher court as in Australia. So based on your beleive in hte legal systems of the world, you must agree that Apple is quite off base... Unless you are aware of cases they won that I am not aware of. I don't think they have won anything at all outside of Germany and that was only to force Samsung to rework the design.

"How is it immoral or underhanded to try and protect your own designs"

Because Apple's lawsuits are rediculous and vague. They didn't invent the touchscreen, or multitouch, or rectangles, or the color black for that matter. Why do you think they are losing? Lack of money to buy the best lawyers? hell no, they have the best of the best there and umpteen billions to spare. They are losing because they have no case.

RE: Moral Stance
By macdevdude on 2/9/12, Rating: -1
RE: Moral Stance
By MechanicalTechie on 2/9/2012 8:11:20 PM , Rating: 5
I have to take my hat of to you sir... your one deluded individual :)

I was going to highlight the blatant mistakes in your last post.. but why bother??? You don’t live in reality nor can you accept the truth.

Thank you for reminding us how idiotic fanboys are... your contribution is very much appreciated :)

RE: Moral Stance
By sprockkets on 2/9/2012 8:13:47 PM , Rating: 4
What's wrong with defending American values against thieves? HUH? :))) Nice try, Androidtroll!

I heard it was -13 degrees today in Cupertino CA.

UM Apple won cases in Australia, Germany, Netherlands, the U.S. and other places too. Im looking forward to the day all this junk is banned. Then even you will have to swallow your pride and use the devices of the company that invented smartphones and tablets.

Did you know that 2+2=5 for extremely large values of 2? It's true.

Apple invented the tablet. Try to deny that all you want, I'm not going to listen to you. I've convinced my parents and friends to quite the world of windows and get macs and they're never happier. Just bought my dad an iPad, its great. Now if I had bought him one of these junk clones, he'd be pretty upset. Apple is the real deel, thre rest are just imitators

You are right, apple invented the smartphone, the tablet, the first mp3 player, the first computer, everything. It's the "real deel".

No they are losing because the Asians are paying off the judges. Can YOU say bribe. Samsung is bribing them.

Yep, them Samsung's winning all those injunctions against apple over FRAND patents.

RE: Moral Stance
By Tony Swash on 2/10/12, Rating: -1
RE: Moral Stance
By bupkus on 2/10/2012 9:13:31 AM , Rating: 2
utterly obvious
Utterly questionable.

RE: Moral Stance
By Gurthang on 2/13/2012 11:16:23 PM , Rating: 1
The fact of the matter is that the "slate" design is the the the design minima for a touch interface device. Being granted a patent for that form is akin to being granted the patent for the sheet paper "design" after the discovery of the paper making process by someone else. And to continue the metaphor being granted patents for existing actions (writing, drawing, gestures, etc.) that are in other media just because you are using them in the new media "paper" is equally asinine.

Apple makes a big deal in their designs to make their virtual interface emulate the physical so that the visual language the interface "speaks" is almost obvious. The problem is that a design like the "slide to unlock" is really just a virtual implimentation if a physcal slide switch or latch which is not exactly a new idea, is not novel, and ultimatly very trivial.

And as to identifying structured data... for a start do some reading on regular expressions. As many have said the idea is as old as programming, dumping it on a smartphone which these days is really just a miniature computer and dressing the idea up in enough verbage to disguise the sheer obviousness of it does not make it new or novel.

RE: Moral Stance
By Pirks on 2/9/2012 9:34:49 PM , Rating: 5
macdevdude makes Tony Swash look like a Microsoft fanboy :)

RE: Moral Stance
By Hyperion1400 on 2/10/2012 1:50:11 AM , Rating: 4
Wait, what? Hold up! I just got through refocusing my scope so my eyes are a bit off kilter...

Pirks? Getting on to macdevdude...about trolling? And trolling about Apple no less!

Sh*t, what's next? The ATF decides to repeal T.D. ATF-393? ...

(K'mon boxcars!)

RE: Moral Stance
By retrospooty on 2/9/2012 9:46:34 PM , Rating: 2
LOL... WOW, just WOW. That is all I can say. That, and please start taking your meds again...

Off the deep end delusional. I dont even know where t start.

RE: Moral Stance
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/9/2012 9:48:18 PM , Rating: 2
Oh look, it's Pirks under a different name. How ironic.

RE: Moral Stance
By BushStar on 2/10/2012 9:57:13 AM , Rating: 2
Apple invented the tablet.

I'm sure this guy has to be a troll. I know I'm not supposed to feed trolls. Anyway, sure, I guess they helped define the modern tablet. I'm pretty sure I watched a fledgling tablet market for much longer than the iPad has been around.

But this iPad to many people seemed to be a stretched iPod/iPhone. I'm not sure why it is sacrilege for others to stretch their device from 4" to 11".

Can Apple really say that they made their device larger first so no one else is allowed to?

RE: Moral Stance
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/10/2012 10:12:42 AM , Rating: 2
of the company that invented smartphones and tablets.
Oh, I didn't see this earlier. No, they did not. You are an idiot, a huge idiot.

RE: Moral Stance
By SilentBobDC on 2/10/2012 10:20:30 AM , Rating: 5
You sir, are an idiot.

Apple invented the tablet. Try to deny that all you want, I'm not going to listen to you.

In 2002, original equipment manufacturers' released the first tablet PCs. Oh wait, apple just refreshed the idea in 2010 unless they have time travel and can change history.

Im looking forward to the day all this junk is banned. Then even you will have to swallow your pride and use the devices of the company that invented smartphones and tablets.

Um again, your bias has rendered you totally unable to read or process facts. Smartphones started around 2000 with Symbian, palm, blackberry and windows CE. Apple joined the party in 2007. Granted their approach did cause great change but they were hardly the "Company that invented smartphones" or tablets for that matter.

Before you continue to embarrass yourself remember this; your demented, egotistical, dictator messiah Steve Jobs said this:
We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.
and this:
Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

Apple lives by stealing ideas and working with them. Either you support this idea and embrace it or continue to act and rant like the hypocrite that you obviously are.

RE: Moral Stance
By Jaybus on 2/10/2012 1:22:31 PM , Rating: 2
Way off! Please see the Dynabook, created by Alan Kay in 1968.

RE: Moral Stance
By rudolphna on 2/11/12, Rating: 0
RE: Moral Stance
By infindebula on 2/11/2012 5:11:48 PM , Rating: 1
Apple did not invent the tablet.

They also didn't invent MP3 players or Smartphones. It could even be argued they didn't invent the PC (questionable).

But they brought their own desirable characteristics to each of the above markets, and made them actually desirable to normal people who don't want to think about the underlying technology. I see people here arguing about a few extra pixels and a few more megahertz, but this shit changes every few months as products leapfrog each other.

Apple made some mistakes that cost them legal stake to the Mac experience, which ultimately cost them relevance on the desktop for about 15 years while the Mac held about a 2% market share. They almost went bankrupt. So now, they are naturally determined to try to protect their innovations by not repeating their mistakes on the smartphone and tablet markets.

I do disagree with some of Apple's practices (crippling low-end products, bait-and-switch, invisible roadmaps on pro apps) - but you can't deny that they innovate, and they can only be expected to do what they're doing.

And let's face it: Galaxy is a great product, but it is mostly an amalgam of great Apple ideas crammed into a product with incrementally better hardware.

RE: Moral Stance
By testerguy on 2/12/2012 7:49:52 AM , Rating: 2
Look, its this guy again, defending Apple, no matter what.

Yeah, just because I'm defending them on this, that means that I defend them no matter what. Good logic there...

Other than that one case, Apple is unanimously losing everything else that goes to court. The few that they won other than that were overturned by a higher court as in Australia. So based on your beleive in hte legal systems of the world, you must agree that Apple is quite off base...

The Samsung Galaxy Tab has been banned in Germany. That means Samsung copied their designs, in the eyes of the law. The fact that Apple has the opinion that other manufacturers / devices did the same thing, and has lost some cases - doesn't mean they are morally doing anything wrong.

If they believed their designs are being copied, they're absolutely entitled to defend that - there is nothing morally wrong with that. If they lose, the case costs them money since they have to pay the lawyers of the opposition. The legal system is self regulating, but that doesn't mean that it's wrong to believe your products have been copied. It IS, wrong, however, to be found GUILTY of ripping off the iPad (as Samsung were). There's a big difference.

Because Apple's lawsuits are rediculous and vague. They didn't invent the touchscreen, or multitouch, or rectangles, or the color black for that matter. Why do you think they are losing? Lack of money to buy the best lawyers? hell no, they have the best of the best there and umpteen billions to spare. They are losing because they have no case.

Do you mean 'ridiculous'? If so, that's subjective. If the courts agreed that the legal cases were ridiculous, they wouldn't be immediately thrown out and not even go to trial. Apple has never claimed to have invented rectangles or black, that's just a ridiculous implication YOU need to try and give your point any validity. What Samsung did, and why they LOST, and had their device banned, was because the copied the entire overall look - not just little things like rectangle, or touch screen, or multi touch. Look at the revised Galaxy Tab - it still has all those things, so clearly therefore they were not the reason the Tab got banned. If you claim they have no case (despite the Tab being banned in Germany) - then what is the problem? Apple will have to pay the legal fees in any case it loses - so they are effectively fined if their legal claims don't work. Why is that so bad? It's their right to try and defend what they believe in the legal system - and if you maintain that 'they lost' then the legal system is doing it's job and nobody suffers - so why the hate?

You need to get some perspective and remember that we're dealing with companies and that it's not illegal or immoral to sue someone just because you lose some of the time.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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