San Diego – The United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld a July ruling by a High Court judge that found Samsung Electronics Co. did not infringe Apple Inc.’s designs when creating its own tablets, which Apple had challenged as part of the companies’ global patent war.
The case “is all about, and only about, Apple’s registered design and the Samsung products,” the Court of Appeal said, noting that no patent claims were at issue in the immediate ruling.
In July Judge Colin Birss of the High Court found no infringement on Samsung’s part, saying Samsung’s tablets do not have the same “understated and extreme simplicity” as the Apple design.
“They are not as cool,” Judge Birss said.
The Court of Appeal found Judge Birss’ reasoning to be sound, saying it could find no material error in his decision.
“If the registered design has a scope as wide as Apple contends it would foreclose much of the market for tablet computers.” the appeals court said. “Alterations in thickness, curvature of the sides, embellishment and so on would not escape its grasp. Legitimate competition by different designs would be stifled.”
The appeals court said a hand-held tablet necessarily requires a flat transparent screen, rounded corners are unremarkable and have some obvious functional value, and a border of some sort is needed for functional reasons.
“There is some design freedom as regards ornamentation, the rim, the overall shape (rectangular or with some curved sides) but not a lot,” the Court of Appeal said. said.
Judge Birss also ordered Apple in July to publish advertisements stating that Samsung had not, in fact, copied its designs as alleged.
“The grant of such an order is not to punish the party concerned for its behavior,” the Court of Appeal said. Nor is it to make it grovel — simply to lose face. The test is whether there is a need to dispel commercial uncertainty.”
The Court of Appeal’s decision is valid throughout Europe, though it will likely be appealed to the UK’s Supreme Court.