posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th Aug 2011 13:58 UTC
IconBreaking news from my swamp home country The Netherlands: the Dutch court has just banned the sales of all Galaxy S, SII and Ace smartphones in the entire European Union. The judge has ruled that Android 2.x violates Apple's 868 patent which covers scrolling through photos on a touchscreen. Only this one patent is violated - the complaints about two other patents as well as the design patents has been thrown out. In other words, the judge did not agree with Apple that Samsung is copying Apple's design. The injunction only covers the Galaxy smartphones, since they run Android 2.x; Android 3.0 does not violate the patent in question, and hence, sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 can continue. In fact, only the Gallery application violates the patent in question, and Samsung has already stated it is going to replace this application on all new Galaxy smartphones from now on - sales won't even be interrupted. In other words - two patents thrown out, design stuff rejected, and only one patent complaint upheld which will cause no harm to Samsung. Apple just scored a meaningless victory. The Dutch court order is here. The pictures speak thousands of words.

Apple filed for an injunction in The Netherlands against two companies Samsung has legally seated here which take care of the distribution of Samsung's devices in Europe (due to the port of Rotterdam). Apple entered into battle with three patents and a community design, and all but one patent has been thrown out by the judge.

All the design-related stuff has been thrown out by the judge, meaning he does not agree with Apple that Samsung copied Apple. In addition, two of the three patents have been thrown out by the judge as well; he does not believe either Android 2.x, Android 3.x, or any of Samsung's additions violate these two patents.

The swipe-to-unlock patent is interesting, since the judge states that it is very likely that in a 'bottom procedure' (a thorough court case where all details are taken into account), this patent will be declared invalid. He specifically refers to the Neonode N1m mobile phone as prior art, which sports the exact same unlock method as the iPhone. The Neonode was released in 2005.

Regarding the design related stuff - the Community Designs - of the iPad, the judge threw it all out, citing loads of prior art (like the Compaq TC1x00). In addition, the judge stated that only the front of the device shows some resemblance, while everything else is entirely different. The Kinght Ridder is also cited as relevant prior art - the judge threw out Apple's defense that the product never made it to market. To round it out, the judge also mentioned 'form-follows-function' several times. Most interesting note: the judge specifically mentions that by having such a minimalist design, the iPad basically makes itself less viable for design protection.

Regarding the design of the Galaxy smartphones, the judge again cites numerous cases of prior 'art', including the LG Prada. The judge threw out all of Apple's claims here. Finally, the Android GUI - the Nokia 7710 is cited numerous times as prior art.

The only infringement claim upheld by the judge concerns patent 2.058.868, which covers scrolling through a collection of photos in full screen, and more specifically, how the photo bounces back after too short a swipe (or whatever - I have a life, I'm not reading the entire damn thing). The Gallery application on Samsung's Android 2.x devices infringes on this patent, and as such, the injunction against the Galaxy S, SII and Ace was granted. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 was exempt, since it runs Android 3.0, which does not infringe on the patent, the judge said.

Samsung has already stated this ruling is pretty much meaningless, since the company is going to replace the Gallery application on all Galaxy smartphones right away. The injunction won't go into effect until mid-October, so they've got more than enough time to change the software. "The injunction has been granted due to the method of scrolling in the Gallery. If that's replaced, there is no more reason to uphold the injunction," states Bas Berghuis van Woortman, Samsung's lawyer. In fact, the judge states in his court order that he has taken the ease with which Samsung can circumvent this patent into account in his ruling.

So, this is pretty much a meaningless victory for Apple, which is great news for not just European consumers, but also for competition in general. Apple's preference for competing against Android in the courtroom and for purposefully hurting consumers has been halted today, and that makes me very happy. On top of that, this ruling provides Samsung with ample ammunition for Thursday's hearing in Germany.

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