Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is coming back on the shelves of European suppliers, after the same Dusseldorf court that blocked the sale of the device over-turned its own decision.
The problem was centred on the legality of a court in Germany being able to stop sales of the device across the entire EU.
Additionally, Samsung have complained that Apple’s main argument: that the Galaxy tab copied the look of the iPad, was misrepresentative.
This is especially as a photo of the tablet beside an iPad to prove infringement had actually been squashed: to make it look more like an iPad, according to Samsung.
While sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is still blocked in Germany, the court ruled that it had no jurisidiction to block sales in other EU member states.
The whole ruling throws the entire dispute into chaos, with Apple left looking for other legal avenues to follow, and EU courts left wondering just how much jurisdiction they have.
This is especially as Apple’s entire argument for infringement was based not in terms of trademark or copyright violation, but simply that it had a tablet and Samsung produced something that may look similar.
This was due to a little known process called “Community Design”.
As Techwatch reported Emma Woollacott stated previously on Apple’s win against Samsung:
Crucially, though, the EU decision rests not upon patents, but on a European ‘Community Design’. This is a legal right to a design – rather than a technical feature, as with a patent – that covers everything down to a product’s packaging.
There’s no detailed description of the product required, simply a general product category. Prior design and obviousness aren’t considered unless there’s an appeal – indeed, Apple’s Community Design was filed only last year, after other tablets were on the market. And once filed for, a Community Design is automatically granted as long as the basic paperwork’s in order.
Once granted, it’s valid across Europe for a period of five years – and can be extended four times to reach a total of 25 years.
Apple had been chasing other tablet PC manufacturer’s in the EU, not least Motorola for their Xoom tablet on similar grounds.
The chances are that today’s judgement means that claim is likely to run into problems.
Apple have a reputation for being heavy-handed using the legal process, even against pro-Apple websites as well as industry competitors. And, of course, main suppliers: Samsung produces many of the electronics used in the Apple iPad.
However, it remains to be seen what Apple’s actual options are in this dispute, as Apple are unlikely to care to finance a country-by-country campaign against Samsung and indeed Motorola.
The danger for Apple is that the company may inadvertently have just raised the rival’s profile.
By comparing the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 directly the industry leading iPad, this may well lead to Samsung’s device being viewed more favourably by comsumers - especially ones looking for a good Android model, with Flash support, and avoid Apple’s walled garden.
In the meantime, it remains to be seen how this saga plays out.
While it is not unusual for a company to try and stop another distributing its goods, it is rare that such a judgement remains upheld, with courts prefering to push the litigants into an out of court resolution.
In this instance Apple has managed to generate a lot of publicity for both the iPad and a main competitor, which may yet backfire.
While no doubt this sorry saga of legal wrangling is anything but over, it does seem that the patent lawyers are enjoying a field day at present across various disputes, usually involving the most generic and frankly appalling patent claims.
It’s no wonder that Google has moved on Motorola to create a patent bank to help protect Android against a flurry of suits over the company’s fledgling but immensely popular mobile OS.