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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?
 
Comparison
 

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



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RE: Moral Stance
By StormyKnight on 2/9/2012 10:41:26 PM , Rating: 2
[quote]1 - On average, Apple users are more educated than Android users.[/quote]
Average suggests numbers. Can you provide (a) link(s) to such existing data showing this average?


RE: Moral Stance
By Solandri on 2/10/2012 12:27:56 AM , Rating: 5
I wouldn't be surprised if it were true. But what he's trying to imply with it is a gross misuse of statistics. I would bet that it isn't that Apple users on are average more educated that Android users. It's that on average Apple phones/tablets are less affordable to uneducated users. They go for Android devices instead, thereby dragging down Android users' average educational level. Apple's high pricing imparts a sample bias independent of education level or free choice.

He's committing three statistical mistakes. (1) He's trying to imply a causal relationship from a correlation. (2) He's blithely ignoring other socioeconomic factors like income. (3) Rather than measuring the breakdown of the entire population, he's measuring a subset of the population and trying to use it to draw conclusions about the entire population.

(1) Everyone should know. (2) Is explained in my first paragraph. Here's an explanatino of (3) using made up numbers to demonstrate how it can mislead:
- Say the entire population is 100 people.
- Say there are 99 Android users ranging from high school to doctorate-level education.
- Say 9 of those users have doctorates.
- Say there is 1 iOS user with a doctorate-level education.

With those stats you'd be correct in claiming the average educational level of iOS users is higher than the average educational level of Android users.

But to properly measure what he's implying (that more educated people pick iOS), you can't sample iOS and Android users and see what their average educational background is. You have to survey people of the same educational level and see whether they prefer iOS or Android. When you do that, you see that 9 out of 10 people holding doctorates prefer Android.

Given that Android sales exceed iOS sales by a healthy margin globally, I suspect a larger percentage of people across all educational levels are choosing Android over iOS.


RE: Moral Stance
By StormyKnight on 2/10/2012 11:52:58 PM , Rating: 2
Don't confuse education with intelligence. There are many people out there who don't have an education that are just as smart if not smarter than those with one. The opposite is also true. There are plenty of people out there with an education that aren't all that intelligent.


RE: Moral Stance
By testerguy on 2/12/2012 8:04:26 AM , Rating: 1
http://macdailynews.com/2011/08/16/iphone-users-sm...

It is true.

What I'm implying is not a misuse of statistics at all.

quote:
I would bet that it isn't that Apple users on are average more educated that Android users. It's that on average Apple phones/tablets are less affordable to uneducated users


Complete logical fail. If Apple phones are less affordable to uneducated users, it means that more uneducated users will use alternatives, such as Android. Which DOES mean that on average, Android users will be less intelligent. Which is what I stated. You're just trying to explain WHY what I said is true, not disproving it.

quote:
They go for Android devices instead, thereby dragging down Android users' average educational level.


Which is exactly the point I made.. so how have you contradicted it?

quote:
He's committing three statistical mistakes. (1) He's trying to imply a causal relationship from a correlation.


Am I? Last I checked I was simply pointing out the correlation, a fact. It remains true that Android users, are, on average, less educated than iPhone users.

quote:
(2) He's blithely ignoring other socioeconomic factors like income.


Which also has a correlation with education and intelligence, so would not contradict the point at all.

quote:
(3) Rather than measuring the breakdown of the entire population, he's measuring a subset of the population and trying to use it to draw conclusions about the entire population.


Wow, the concept of a survey - EXPOSED. If only all the millions of representative sample surveys which had happened all over the world for years knew that they were pointless and that the opinions of 'Solandri' would hold more water. Where's your evidence to the contrary. Do you confuse not having any evidence whatsoever with being as relevant as a survey? Good one.

quote:
- Say the entire population is 100 people. - Say there are 99 Android users ranging from high school to doctorate-level education. - Say 9 of those users have doctorates. - Say there is 1 iOS user with a doctorate-level education.


In this scenario, (which is grossly misleading due to the 99/1 ratio - a ratio which doesn't exist between Android and iOS) - the average intelligence of the iOS user is STILL higher than the Android user. Which is what I stated. In reality, of course, the numbers are very close to 50/50 and thousands of people from both Android and iOS were questioned, so this logic is completely failed anyway.

quote:
You have to survey people of the same educational level and see whether they prefer iOS or Android. When you do that, you see that 9 out of 10 people holding doctorates prefer Android.


Just to clarify - this conclusion can only be reached based on the made up numbers in Solandri's post, and the reason such an illogical conclusion can be reached in his example is because there is such a disproportionate balance between Android and iOS users. In the relevant survey, no such inbalance applied - so you're whole point is rendered irrelevant.

quote:
Given that Android sales exceed iOS sales by a healthy margin globally, I suspect a larger percentage of people across all educational levels are choosing Android over iOS.

Actually, the numbers have closed up and it's now nearly 50/50. Regardless, in the survey, a higher percentage of the people who responded were iOS users - again rendering your speculative point absolutely irrelevant. Both Android and iOS had sufficient responses to constitute a representative statistical dataset - again, this was not true in your fictional example.

So in summary, my original statement remains 100% correct, and all of your summary wouldn't even change that if it were true. As it happens, all of your summary is grossly misleading and ironically is the only example out of our two surveys which suffers from the statistical failures you accuse mine of having.

;-)


"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser














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