It’s Official: Samsung Products “not as cool” as Apple’s

Posted: October 25, 2012 in design rights, Designs, Patents
Tags: , ,

UK COURT OF APPEAL AWARD JUDGMENT IN SAMSUNG’S FAVOUR IN ‘TABLET WARS’

On 18 October 2012, the British Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in the dispute between Apple and Samsung over the design of three Samsung Galaxy tablet computers. You can read the full judgment here. The court unanimously upheld the decision of the High Court decision of 9 July that Samsung did not infringe Apple’s registered community designs relating to its iPad. Apple was also ordered to publish the outcome of the decision on its website.

Case History

This particular case related to the registered design of Apple’s tablet computer and whether the Galaxy tablet computers infringed that design. Proceedings started  in Germany and the Netherlands against Samsung’s UK subsidiary. In the UK, Samsung sought a declaration of non-infringement in relation to its Galaxy tablet computers. The matter proceeded to the High Court, followed by invalidation proceedings before the Office of Harmonisation for the Internal market (OHIM), the official office in Europe responsible for registering European designs, in respect of Apple’s registered community design.

The matter eventually ended up in the British High Court, where the judge at first instance assessed the similarities and differences between the two products and whether Samsung’s Galaxy tablet as a whole produced a different overall impression on the ‘informed user’ from that produced by Apple’s design registration, and concluded that it did. (The ‘informed user’ was deemed to be a user of hand-held tablet computers.)

High Court Judgment

Differences in the sides and back of the Galaxy including its “thinness” created an overall impression which was different from the registered design. The judge added that Samsung’s designs “do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design” and they were “not as cool“.

Following the decision, Samsung sought an order for publication of a notice on the homepage of Apple’s website and in national newspapers stating that its Galaxy tablet did not infringe Apple’s community registered design. The order was allowed but as a result of Apple’s appeal of the High Court decision, its execution was stayed pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal hearing.

Court of Appeal Judgment

On 18 October 2012, three appeal judges upheld the decision of the judge at first instance. Apple’s application to quash the order for publication of the decision on its website and in publications was also declined.

The court made it clear that “the issue is simply whether the accused design is too close to the registered design according to the tests laid down in the law“: “It is not about whether Samsung copied Apple’s iPad“. The court agreed with the lower court’s findings, confirming that “if the registered design has a scope as wide as Apple contends, it would foreclose much of the market for tablet computers.  Alterations in thickness, curvature of the sides, embellishment and so on would not escape its grasp. Legitimate competition by different designs would be stifled“.

This decision, binding throughout the EU, is one of a number of judgments in a worldwide and lengthy battle between the companies relating to intellectual property rights in the parties’ smart phones and tablet computers and shows the relatively narrow scope being given by the English courts to design registrations.

© Brian Miller, Solicitor, 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

Brian is a solicitor at Stone King LLP.  For further news and information on legal topics of interest, please visit Brian’s other blogs:

Brian Miller Solicitor’s Games Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s IP Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s Privacy & Data Protection Law Blog

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