After U.K. Court’s Handslap, Apple Gets Less Cheeky In Samsung “Apology”

Next Story

Drew’s Mom Reviews “Startups: Silicon Valley”

Apple had to tone down the attitude in a re-issued “apology” it published today to its U.K. website after losing an appeal in a patent infringement case against Samsung. A U.K. judge smacked down its previous apology for being “incorrect” and “untrue” on Thursday. Above is the pared-down version that appears in a link at the bottom of the company’s U.K. homepage.

And then, here’s the old version (which you’ll note contains several paragraphs praising Apple’s design aesthetic from the ruling). Basically, it just had too much attitude:

On 9th July 2012 the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that Samsung Electronic(UK) Limited’s Galaxy Tablet Computer, namely the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7 do notinfringe Apple’s registered design No. 0000181607-0001. A copy of the full judgment of the Highcourt is available on the following link www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Patents/2012/1882.html.

In the ruling, the judge made several important points comparing the designs of the Apple and Samsung products:

“The extreme simplicity of the Apple design is striking. Overall it has undecorated flat surfaces with a plate of glass on the front all the way out to a very thin rim and a blank back. There is a crisp edge around the rim and a combination of curves, both at the corners and the sides. The design looks like an object the informed user would want to pick up and hold. It is an understated, smooth and simple product. It is a cool design.”

“The informed user’s overall impression of each of the Samsung Galaxy Tablets is the following. From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design; but the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back. They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool.”

That Judgment has effect throughout the European Union and was upheld by the Court of Appeal on 18 October 2012. A copy of the Court of Appeal’s judgment is available on the following link http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2012/1339.html. There is no injunction in respect of the registered design in force anywhere in Europe.

However, in a case tried in Germany regarding the same patent, the court found that Samsung engaged in unfair competition by copying the iPad design. A U.S. jury also found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple’s design and utility patents, awarding over one billion U.S. dollars in damages to Apple Inc. So while the U.K. court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognized that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung willfully copied Apple’s far more popular iPad.

At the time the U.K. judge, Robin Jacob, handed down the order, Bloomberg quoted him as saying, “I’m at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this. That is a plain breach of the order.” He ordered Apple to remove it within 24 hours and replace it with a compliant notice within 48 hours.

Last month, Apple lost an appeal against a ruling in a U.K. High Court, saying that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab did not infringe upon the iPad’s design. The original ruling by Judge Colin Birss said Samsung’s tablets were not cool enough to be confused with Apple’s because they lacked the “extreme simplicity” of the iPad.

In the October ruling, the court said that Apple had to run notices on its U.K. website and in several print media outlets specially saying that Samsung did not infringe upon Apple’s designs. Given that Apple’s iconic founder Steve Jobs famously said he was willing to go “thermonuclear” on rivals like Google (and the handset makers that Android relies upon), it’s understandable why Apple would be reluctant to run such a statement on its own homepage.

Yet having to rescind and then re-issue a statement seems really too silly.