By Natasha Lomas
Apple's (AAPL) courtroom skirmishes against its Android OEM enemy No. 1 Samsung (SSNLF.PK) have not been going very well of late, despite Cupertino's big $1 billion+ damages win against Samsung last summer. Today another legal blow for Cupertino: A Dutch district court has ruled that Samsung's Galaxy tablets do not infringe Apple design patents.
The latest Apple vs. Samsung court ruling concerns the rounded corners of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Tab 8.9, and Galaxy Tab 7.7 tablets -- which Apple had argued infringe the design of the iPad. The Dutch court rejected Apple's argument -- saying there is "no question of an infringement" -- and citing previous similar decisions in U.K. courts.
A notice on its website (translated from Dutch with Google Translate) reads:
Today the Hague district court judgment in a case of Samsung against Apple. At issue in this case is whether the design of some of Samsung Galaxy tablets infringe a design right from Apple. The court believes that there is no question of an infringement.
The court refers to British law which the court already had found the same two instances on the same infringement question.
While it might seem logical to conclude that all these court misses are accumulating to weigh down Apple's overall legal hopes against Samsung -- Reuters notes that the pair are engaged in patent litigation in at least 10 countries -- the reason for the Dutch court falling in line with the U.K. ruling comes down to this case being focused on a design/IP patent, rather than a technical patent. According to the FOSS Patents blog, design/IP patents are currently subject to EU-level law, whereas technical patents are adjudicated on a country-by-country basis. "It would have taken some exceptional circumstances for the Dutch court to disagree with the UK court," the blog notes.
Samsung provided the following statement commenting on the Dutch court ruling:
We welcome the court's decision, which reaffirmed decisions made by courts in other countries 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. Should Apple continue to make excessive legal claims based on such generic designs, innovation in the industry could be harmed and consumer choice unduly limited.
At the time of writing, Apple had not responded to a request for comment.
Last October, Apple lost an appeal in a U.K. High Court against a tablet design patent judgement that had found in Samsung's favor. The U.K. court also ruled that Samsung's Galaxy Tab did not infringe on the iPad's design (the judge in the original trial actually said Samsung's tablet was "not cool enough" to infringe on Apple's design). In that instance, the court ordered Apple to publish an acknowledgement of the judgement on its website and run ads in paper-based media.