The German court in Duesseldorf has just ruled that the injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will remain in effect, hereby contradicting the Dutch courts which threw out all of Apple’s claims. This limited injunction only covers Germany, and is based on a Community Design; the rest of Europe is not affected.Update IV: We finally have some more information from the courts, as well as a short response from Samsung. Big small reveal? The judge didn’t handle the iPad at all – he only handled the community design. Read on for more. Also, older updates are in the ‘read more’ as well.
So, Bloomberg has some quotes form the judge itself and from Samsung, and it’s all incredibly peculiar. While the judge in the Dutch court case – which covers the exact same community designs – ruled that not only did Samsung not infringe on Apple’s community designs, the community designs were most likely invalid due to being common sense (i.e., it’s virtually impossible to make a tablet in a different way) and because of loads of prior art. The Dutch judge ruled the community design probably wouldn’t survive a full court case.
The German judge’s ruling, however, is the exact opposite, stating that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 bears a “clear impression of similarity” with the iPad 2. “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,” the court states. The court further clarified to Bloomberg that they didn’t handle actual real iPads – only the 2004 community design which the Dutch judge threw out. Unbelievable. Expect this important detail to be ignored by most other news outlets and blogs.
It is important to note that this injunction and ruling have nothing to do with patents or trademarks – it’s all about the community design. The Dutch court case was much broader, and did include patents. Patents which, I might add, were thrown out by the Dutch court, while also ruling Samsung didn’t infringe (except for one which had no consequences).
Samsung, for its part, obviously isn’t happy. The company told Bloomberg that this “severely limits consumer choice in Germany” and that it “restricts design innovation and progress in the industry”. Samsung still has the opportunity to appeal, and the case in DÃ¼sseldorf will go ahead whether Samsung does so or not.
So, there you have it. The exact same community design, and two rulings that are each other’s polar opposites in every possible way. I love Germany to death (seriously, great country and great people, esp. in the former DDR), but this is a definite head-scratcher. In the comments, I mused about the influence of the German automotive industry on the receptiveness of the German courts in cases like this, but of course there’s no way to prove any of that. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, doesn’t really have such a massive industry of its own, and we rely much more (close to solely) on free trade and product throughput into the rest of Europe – for us Dutch, it wouldn’t make sense to ban products, since it would harm the main pillar of our economy. It wouldn’t surprise me if this difference between Germany and The Netherlands explains why the rulings turned out so differently.
Update: It just hit me that in appeals in Germany, Samsung can use the Dutch ruling, and Apple the German ruling. In appeals in The Netherlands, Apple can use the German ruling, and Samsung the Dutch ruling. Just goes to show: software patents and Community Designs are willy-nilly, and therefore, should not have a legal basis.
Update II: Galaxy Tab 7.7 is also included in the injunction. Bwuh?
Update III: Boo! Full ruling will become available a week from today. That press release says nothing about the 7.7, though. Odd.