Too Cool for Court ? Apple loses UK Court Ruling

Law

The UK High Court has recently ruled that Apple’s European Registered Design (CRD) for its IPad tablet is not infringed by Samsung’s Galaxy Tab product, one reason cited being that Samsung’s product is not as cool as the iPad design. This is one of many cases ongoing around the world in what has become known as the Smartphone Wars.

In 2004 Apple applied for and obtained a CRD registration in Europe for the iPad. The registration drawings can be seen via the link in the notes below.

Samsung subsequently applied to the UK courts for a declaration that its Galaxy Tab products do or would not infringe Apple’s CRD – a pre-emptive legal action to obtain independent judicial clarification that its product would not be an infringement. This was defended by Apple who also counterclaimed for infringement.

Judge Colin Birss QC decided that there was no infringement despite similarities.

A key consideration in registered design proceedings is whether the alleged offending product produces the same overall impression on the ‘informed user’, which takes into account the body of related designs already known when the design application was filed. In this way, the breadth of protection afforded to a registered design depends on how close it is to products already on the market.

In the Apple case, the Judge concluded that:

“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. The overall impression produced is different."

In addition to finding non-infringement, the Judge ordered Apple to publish a statement as to Samsung’s non-infringement. Apple has in the meantime appealed and so this order has been stayed until the appeal is heard.

Notes:

The relevant Apple CRD is numbered 000181607 and can be viewed by entering the number on website http://oami.europa.eu/RCDOnline/RequestManager.

A CRD is a EU-wide registered design right that can be applied for in a single application, thereby offering a very cost-effective alternative to filing in individual EU countries.

Agile IP’s team of European Design Attorneys will be happy to advise further on design protection and enforcement. Please contact us.