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UK Judges Order Apple to Set the Record Straight

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 19, 2012 5:00 AM PT

A three-judge panel on Thursday rebuffed an attempt by Apple to overturn a UK court's decision favoring archrival Samsung.

UK Judges Order Apple to Set the Record Straight

Britain's Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that found Samsung's Galaxy tablet did not copy tablet designs registered by Apple in the UK.

The court also sustained the lower court's mandate that Apple run newspaper ads and post a notice on its UK website to inform the public that Samsung's tablet does not infringe Apple's registered designs.

Another level of appeal is still open to Apple, but the company hasn't disclosed yet whether it will avail itself of that option.

Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

Horse's Mouth

An unusual wrinkle in the British case is the court's mandate that Apple advertise that Samsung hasn't infringed Apple's tablet intellectual property.

The advertising mandate was not intended to "punish the party concerned for its behaviour. Nor is it to make it grovel -- simply to lose face," the UK judges note in their decision.

Because it created confusion in the marketplace concerning Samsung's products, Apple needed to address the situation itself, the judges said. "The acknowledgement must come from the horse's mouth. Nothing short of that will be sure to do the job completely."

No Corner On Rounded Corners

The decision "reaffirmed our position that our Galaxy Tab products do not infringe Apple's registered design right. We continue to believe that Apple was not the first to design a tablet with a rectangular shape and rounded corners and that the origins of Apple's registered design features can be found in numerous examples of prior art," Samsung said.

Samsung made a similar argument in a U.S. patent lawsuit Apple filed against it. A jury in that case ruled for Apple, and Samsung is currently appealing that decision.

"Should Apple continue to make excessive legal claims in other countries based on such generic designs, innovation in the industry could be harmed and consumer choice unduly limited," Samsung said.

Samsung declined to provide further details.

Products Win

Samsung's victory isn't likely to have much of an impact on Apple's business or reputation, said Trip Chowdhry, managing director for equity research at Global Equities Research.

"This decision is irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things," he told MacNewsWorld.

"Whoever makes the best products will win," Chowdhry said. "I don't think because of legalities and litigation any product wins. I think this is a non-event."

The most important question to be resolved between Apple and Samsung in the near term is the three multitouch software patents the American jury considered infringed, said intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller. That could lead to a ban of Samsung products in the United States.

"Compared to that key question, the UK design patent skirmish is of very limited relevance," he told MacNewsWorld.

No Foul, but No Harm

The UK decision is unlikely to reduce the chill that Apple has put in the market with its numerous lawsuits, Mueller said. "Even in defeat, the rest of the industry is discouraged by Apple's enforcement efforts from building more iPad and iPhone lookalikes in the future."

The decision isn't likely to harm Apple's reputation in the mind of the public, according to Mike Pegues, a patent attorney with Bracewell & Giuliani.

"Techies pay attention to these lawsuits because they want to understand what's going on," he told MacNewsWorld, "but for your average consumer -- they don't take issue one way the other."

While the decision probably won't hurt Apple's reputation in the United States, it could have an impact on how Europeans view the company, David Mixon, a patent attorney with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, told MacNewsWorld.

"The Android operating system has a much larger market share in Europe than Apple," he observed, "so Samsung has a large audience to which it can tout this decision."

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