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Ban is rejected, judges say no one is mistaking Samsung's tablets for Apple ones

U.S. Design Patent D504,889 and its corresponding patents in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere have stirred up a lively debate about patent law in relation to competition.  The Apple, Inc. (AAPL) design patent contains precious little text, so it's left to Apple's lawyers to interpret it, and is up to international courts to decide how broad the protected design space is.

I. Does D'889 Grant Apple a Monopoly?

Apple claims D'889 is essentially a blank check to a tablet monopoly.  While the pictured device in the 2004-era patent:

Apple D'889 patent

...has no buttons and is substantially different from the iPad in bezel size and form factor, Apple says none of that matters.  It says it has "invented" the minimalist tablet  -- in Apple's words a tablet with "slightly rounded corners,'" "a flat transparent surface without any ornamentation," and "a thin profile" -- and that competitors should not be allowed to produce rival designs of any size.  The only unspoken exception is Windows 8 tablets, as Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) owns a favorable cross-licensing deal with Apple.

In the U.S., Apple's claims of monopoly ownership were backed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit who decided in a May 14th ruling [PDF] that Apple's design patent was valid and that Samsung infringed on it. The ruling led to Judge Lucy Koh in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose/San Francisco) to institute a nationwide sales ban on Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KSC:005930) Galaxy Tab 10.1, despite her personal opinion that the patent was invalid.

Overseas in Britain, Apple's broad claims met a far different fate.  Judge Colin Birss stroked Apple's ego, while offering it a stinging court defeat.

II. UK Judge Rejects Design Infringement Claims

He writes, "[The Galaxy Tab line] do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design... They are not as cool."

Despite the kind words, the Judge says that 50+ examples of prior art both in the industry and in fictional works show that Apple's 2004 idea was hardly "original".  The Judge considered it ludicrous that Samsung be expected to differentiate the front of its device, given that extra face buttons hinder the user interface and that the hardware form factor is almost entirely constrained by the multi-touch display, an industry standard.

Judge Birss says where tablets need to differentiate themselves is in the back face and profile.  He found that "unusual details" on the back of the Samsung devices, as well as a thinner profile, made them trivially distinguishable from the iPad.

Galaxy Tab v. iPad
The Galaxy Tab (left) is substantially different from the iPad (right) according to a UK Judge.  
[Image Source: Gadgets and Gizmos]

In short, he argued that Apple's lawyers were completely wrong in their argument that customers would confuse the Galaxy Tab 10.1 for iPads.

His ruling means that there will be no bans and no damages on a design basis.  A London court previously ruled that three of Apple's most-asserted EU technology patents were invalid on the grounds of obviousness and prior art, while a fourth was too narrow to sue Samsung and others.

Apple has 21 days to appeal the ruling to higher courts in the UK.  Otherwise it risks a complete loss in its UK efforts to kill Android in court.  Such a loss could spell a permanent end to the company's slew of suits in the European Union.

Amid the losses in the EU, Apple's bet at banning the competition may be in the U.S. However, it faces some tough tests, such as Judge Richard A. Posner who argues that the U.S. patent system is broken and that Apple is using the broken system to its advantage as a weapon to kill free market competition.

Source: Bloomberg

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RE: separated at birth
By JasonMick on 7/9/2012 5:42:55 PM , Rating: 5
Here's the simple truth.

Apple releases the iPod. Soon all mp3 players start to look like the iPod.

Apple releases the iPhone. Soon all phones start to look like the iPhone (with the possible honourable exception of Windows Phone - which isn't actually bought by anyone).

Apple releases the MacBook Air. Soon all lightweight laptops start to look like the MacBook Air.

Apple releases the iPad. OEMs rush to release me-too tablets, the only ones that sell in in anything other than derisory numbers start to look like the iPad.

If Apple releases an iPad mini later this year all smaller tablets will start to look like the iPad mini but will fail in the market place.

Are there any original design department left amongst the OEMs or did the taste and design free years of the old Microsoft hegemony gut the tech industry of creative designers?
There's some truth to your quote, but you're ignoring a HUGE GLARING POINT .

In any industry, the most successful player's products are always, ALWAYS emulated by others.

When Apple was stumbling through the 1990s no one was emulating it. HP and Dell weren't zealously copying its designs.

When the Apple Newton flopped, nobody wanted to imitate it. It was only years later when Palm built a thriving business on smaller, sleeker handhelds that companies like HP took note and began to copy.

When RIM was king of the smartphone industry, some OEMs like Kyocera tried to make BlackBerry look alikes. Is anyone really devoting that much effort to that now?

Apple is no stranger to "me-too" syndrome. The MacBook Pro was born out of carefully watching Sony's success earlier in the decade. The Vaio line was sleek, long-lived, and pricey. Apple lifted that model almost wholesale and birthed a highly successful laptop line. Today, as the MacBook Pro/Air line has eclipsed Sony, companies like Acer have looked to it for inspiration.

When the iPhone launched, Apple borrowed from RIM, taking to heart the need for a strong, flexible, intuitive message client and other core apps. This was very different from the Newton, which lacked solid core apps aside from I/O. Apple had learned. Apple had copied.

Likewise the Newton was bulky, ugly. Apple saw the success Palm had in the PDA space with large, full-screen touch devices. The iPhone veers very little from this model. Its looks borrows far more from Palm than from its own predecessor -- Newton.

Likewise Android surely borrowed from Apple in both the tablet and smartphone space. But with success, Google and Android OEMs have moved beyond imitation and have established themselves as the leaders in features, looks, and price in the smartphone market.

Yes Apple remains popular in the smartphone market and controls almost 2/3rds of its profits. But it is being outsold by Android, make no mistake of that.

And what happens next? Lo and behold mighty Apple begins to borrow from the new market leader, borrowing the notifications center, update images to transform icons in quasi-widgets.

Everyone copies, don't be dim. The issue here is that Apple thinks it is a God and deserves to be treated differently than everyone else in the market.

The issue is that Apple is looking to sue everyone for allegedly at one time copying it, all while having built its business on copying Palm, RIM, Sony, Xerox, and countless others and liberally borrowing from Android in a present context.

"me-tooism"? Your favorite company is no exception to the rule. It's just a hypocrite to boot.

RE: separated at birth
By testerguy on 7/10/12, Rating: -1
RE: separated at birth
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/10/2012 7:37:51 AM , Rating: 3
But I also don't think companies should be allowed to so blatantly rip off a product design in the way Samsung did.
And yet again, for the millionth time. They didn't blatantly copy them....they look nothing alike.

RE: separated at birth
By Pirks on 7/10/2012 3:32:01 PM , Rating: 2
Jason Mick has posted a picture here recently where Samsung phone was a 100% visual clone of iPhone. So you'd better be doing your clownish dances and funny tricks instead of arguing with Mick. You're no match for him. Got it cheesy? :)

RE: separated at birth
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/10/2012 4:09:45 PM , Rating: 2
Only a dumbass as yourself would say it's a 100 percent clone. Us people in the real world know better and can see the differences.

RE: separated at birth
By Pirks on 7/10/2012 5:34:37 PM , Rating: 2
Visual clone, idiot, VISUAL. It LOOKS exactly like iPhone. Even though the OS and apps are indeed different.

RE: separated at birth
By testerguy on 7/13/2012 2:56:18 AM , Rating: 2
I can't believe I have to keep reminding you that their own lawyer - the Samsung lawyer, was asked to point out which was the iPad, and which was the Galaxy Tab.

He couldn't.

Would that be true if:

.they look nothing alike.


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