Apple and Samsung have toured the globe over the course of their patent war, leaving a number of loose ends in their wake. We’re still unsure just what could happen in Japan, Australia, and even here in the U.S., but in Germany a conclusion has finally been reached. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is still banned in Germany, as a Dusseldorf court upheld the EU-wide preliminary injunction granted on August 9.
Here’s the deal: The German court decided a week after that hearing that it may not have jurisdiction over a Korea-based company and what it sells to all the other European countries. Thus, the injunction was partially lifted, banning only Samsung’s German unit from selling the tablet within Germany. The Korean parent was, and is, still allowed to offer the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in other European nations, reports Bloomberg.
This case has everything to do with Apple’s Community Design 000181607 for the iPad. According to a judge, Samsung’s slate just doesn’t differentiate itself enough from the iPad, and there are plenty of other design options they could’ve chosen from. “The court is of the opinion that Apple’s minimalistic design isn’t the only technical solution to make a tablet computer, other designs are possible,” said presiding Judge Brueckner-Hofmann. “For the informed customer, there remains the predominant overall impression that the device looks [like Apple's design].”
If you happen to recall our recent coverage of the Nintendo/ThinkOptic case, I mentioned that the Eastern District Court of Texas tends to strongly favor the patent holder. European patent expert Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents says this of the German court: “The Düsseldorf district court has a reputation for being our equivalent of the Eastern District of Texas in terms of a strong tendency to favor the interests of right holders over those of alleged infringers.”
And look what happened! Apple, the right holder, won. Now, I don’t mean to imply that Apple didn’t deserve the win. I can’t make judgement calls like that, as I’m not Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann. All I’m saying is that Apple did its research when picking and choosing battlefields.
For example, the same court ordered an injunction forcing Samsung to pull its Galaxy Tab 7.7 from its booth at the IFA conference in Berlin last week. This happened for one of two reasons: Either Apple easily won itself another injunction (due to the extreme similarity between the GalTab 10.1 and the GalTab 7.7), or Apple asked the court to penalize Samsung for contempt of the original injunction.
Samsung’s statement on the matter doesn’t offer much clarity: “We have decided — on a current occasion — to replace the product with our other IFA highlight product, the Galaxy Note, since, as the press reported, we weren’t going to offer the product for sale in Germany anyway, so we want to show our customers the other product — the [Galaxy] Note — more closely.”
With other cases still ongoing across the world, it’s worth wondering how this decision may affect the others, if only in perception. When Judge Annabelle Bennett of Australia or Judge Lucy Koh of Northern California step up to the mic, will they remember how Brueckner-Hofmann ruled?
Samsung said it would appeal the court’s decision, which “severely limits consumer choice in Germany” and “restricts design innovation and progress in the industry,” the company said in a statement.