updated 02:03 am EDT, Thu July 19, 2012
Unusual penalty in rare Apple loss sparks controversy
The same UK judge that offered a backhanded compliment in the form of a rare win for Samsung over Apple -- by declaring that the South Korean company didn't infringe on Apple's iPad design with its Galaxy 10.1 because the latter wasn't "cool enough" to be confused with the former -- saw his unusual penalty for Apple losing the case slapped with a challenge. The case will now be heard in a UK court of appeals.
Judge Birss, who granted the appeal and presided over the main trial, ruled that Samsung did not copy Apple's design sufficiently to be considered infringing, a finding that is in line with rulings in Australia and The Netherlands, but contrary to findings in Germany (where the Galaxy Tab 10.1N was introduced to work around the Apple ban) and thus far in the United States, where the tablet is under a temporary sales injunction.
Should the original ruling survive the appeal, Apple might be forced to pay for advertising in several UK newspapers as well as on its own website advising the public that Samsung's tablet does not infringe on Apple's designs. Thus far Apple's appeal covers grounds relating to the original claims of Samsung copying the design, but Apple would be within its rights to challenge the "penalty" Judge Birss imposed as unnecessarily punitive and an example of judicial overreach. Neither Apple nor the judges in any other previous or ongoing Apple-Samsung disputes has suggested a similar penalty for Samsung when it has lost.
UK courts have gained a reputation for being very reticent to find a company guilty of infringement. In such cases, violators are likely to be found guilty in only 15 percent of cases heard. Apple recently had three of its own patents declared invalid in another UK case against HTC.
The current preliminary injunction on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the US could be lifted or become permanent depending on the outcome of the upcoming US patent dispute trial, currently scheduled to start later this month. Observers believe Samsung has a weak case against Apple domestically, while Apple's claims have so far survived several tests, and the iPad maker is seen as likely to prevail overall. Outside the country, however, Apple's track record has been much more uneven.