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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: Dear Apple...
By Pirks on 7/9/2012 6:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
Nah, it's not just about Apple consumers, it's more like about all brand whores in general. Apple is nothing special here, Sony used to be just like that a few years ago.

RE: Dear Apple...
By Motoman on 7/9/2012 9:34:10 PM , Rating: 5
Nope, don't believe you. There has never been, and in all likelihood never will there be again, a brand that commands that kind of zombie-ish herd mentality other than Apple. Sony was never even close to that...I have no idea where you even came up with that.

RE: Dear Apple...
By sprockkets on 7/9/2012 10:53:34 PM , Rating: 3
At least sony made good products in the day, like the trinitron and walkman. AND they featured good sound quality. Remember MEGA Bass?

Memories :)

RE: Dear Apple...
By Pirks on 7/10/2012 12:14:20 AM , Rating: 2
At least sony made good products in the day
At least Apple does outstanding products RIGHT NOW, unlike Sony. I played with Retina MBP at the local Apple store last Friday - man what a craftsmanship! PC industry will never produce anything like that until next year, that's if we are very lucky. Such a thin, light and long lasting laptop with such a screen and other top notch internals... man if I were an OS X fanatic like Tony :)))

RE: Dear Apple...
By BZDTemp on 7/10/2012 7:51:01 AM , Rating: 2
They still make good products.

Cameras, TV's, Hifif, laptops, walkmans... and also lots of pro gear.

Sony learned from their mistakes and their stuff is a lot more open to widely used standards than Apple and Microsoft for that matter.

Look at the PS3 vs. the XBOX 360. The PS3 comes with instructions and software tools needed to swap the hard drive to any standard 2.5" SATA drive with the 360 one has to buy from Microsoft at a huge premium. With the PS3 you can use PC gear like keyboards, steering wheels as well as pretty much any Bluetooth headset while with the 360 it's all bespoke 360 gear....

RE: Dear Apple...
By Mint on 7/11/2012 11:14:02 AM , Rating: 2
I hate Apple's tactics and will probably never buy one of their products, but you can't make a blanket statement like that.

The iPod destroyed every MP3 player with its UI, and Apple used its might to drag the childish recording industry by the ear into the digital age with iTunes. MacBooks are generally overpriced, but it took ages for a PC to come out that was as light/powerful/affordable as the MacBook Air. The iPhone took a bunch of existing ideas and put it into a cohesive package, creating the modern smartphone before anyone else. Now we're seeing their buying power changing the direction of the display industry away from 100% cost reduction to one that puts a little effort into image quality.

So long as the courts keep rejecting Apple's anti-competitive behavior, the tech industry has benefited greatly from Apple's existence.

RE: Dear Apple...
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/11/2012 11:59:24 AM , Rating: 2
MacBooks are generally overpriced, but it took ages for a PC to come out that was as light/powerful/affordable as the MacBook Air

RE: Dear Apple...
By TakinYourPoints on 7/10/12, Rating: -1
RE: Dear Apple...
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/10/2012 10:33:43 AM , Rating: 2
Again, garbage to you , and thank god, you aren't everyone.

Apologists who excuse away
Everything Apple does.....

Mactards are annoying but fandroids have lived in a complete state of denial for years , its amazing.
No, they really haven't...

RE: Dear Apple...
By TakinYourPoints on 7/10/2012 4:43:44 PM , Rating: 2
Sure they do, they'll still claim Gingerbread is a good mobile OS. Really funny

RE: Dear Apple...
By nafhan on 7/10/2012 5:32:07 PM , Rating: 2
2.2 for about 6 months and 2.3 for the past year. Since I haven't really had any complaints in regards to the OS, I guess I'd be one of those crazy people who calls it good.

I do hear that I'm missing out on a LOT of smoothness...

RE: Dear Apple...
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/10/2012 9:33:47 PM , Rating: 2
4.i is amazingly smooth :)

RE: Dear Apple...
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/10/2012 9:35:09 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Dear Apple...
By Reclaimer77 on 7/10/2012 11:04:23 AM , Rating: 1

RE: Dear Apple...
By BillyBatson on 7/10/2012 3:49:22 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with you that Sony never had the zombie following that Apple does... But there was a time without Samsung, withou LG, and a bunch of others... A time when Sony did rule as the electronic brand of choice! When I was younger everyone had to have a Sony tv, Walkman, portable cd player, Sony surround systems, the MiniDisc (yes it was generally a flop but when it was first out there wasn't anything better), DVD players, later on their laptops eapecially the 11-13" models, and eventually the playstation....
All that is over now, but in the 80's and 90's whether you wanted the best or just to feel cool, Sony was the brand of choice. At that time if you said some company called Samsung would surpass Sony in quality and brand perception no one would have believed you.
Eventually the same will happen to apple the only question is whether that will be the end of brand worship or if we will be addicted to a much worse blood sucking brand.

RE: Dear Apple...
By Tony Swash on 7/10/12, Rating: -1
RE: Dear Apple...
By karlostomy on 7/11/2012 5:14:46 AM , Rating: 2
Apple sells the top selling handsets

Please can you post the most recent evidence where an apple handset has sold the most?
I think you are telling porkies.
Prove me wrong.

Apple is doubling in size every year

From what I have seen, Apple growth is slowing down, while the competition is catching up.

You seem to be fond of making vacuuous statements.
Where is the evidence?
The onus is on you.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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