Will the Samsung-Apple US verdict have bearing on UK battle?

Summary:The verdict is in, and Samsung is looking at a hefty fine in the US if its appeals process is unsuccessful. But does the ruling have any bearing on the companies' ongoing legal fight in Britain?

Apple's landmark legal victory over Samsung on Friday will see the South Korean electronics manufacturer pay more than $1bn (£639m) in damages, if its expected appeal is unsuccessful.

While  the verdict is clearly a blow for Samsung , the heavily nuanced decisions on patent and copyright infringement in the US will have no bearing on the availability of devices or ongoing litigation in the UK, according to Colin Fowler, a litigation lawyer at Rouse.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has been at the centre of a number of lawsuits between Apple and Samsung. Image credit: Bonnie Cha/CNET News

In the UK, Judge Colin Birss ruled that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 was "not as cool" as the iPad and that the tablet did not infringe on Apple's registered design. However, the case was more restricted than that in the US as it focused on one family of products (and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 specifically), and was only tested against Apple's registered design for the iPad.

"There's basically no legal overlap. IP rights are territorial. The rights that were relied on in the case in the US are different to the ones relied on in the UK," Fowler told ZDNet.

"The US case is far, far wider: there's a lengthy list of products that were being sued in relation to there and a lengthy list of rights being relied on. In the US, those rights include design patents, utility patents and trade dress, which is essentially how something looks."

In addition, the UK case amounted to a pre-emptive strike by Samsung. It took its designs to court with a view to getting a ruling that it had not infringed upon the iPad even before being accused by Apple.

Injunction in the UK?

While Samsung will most likely appeal the verdict, the next step in the US for Apple is to try and get Samsung's devices removed from store shelves. Whether this move is successful or not, any injunction will have no effect on the UK market.

"The US victory is in no way binding on the court that will hear the appeal in relation to the Tab 10.1 design case here," Fowler said.

He added that while Apple could try to use the ruling as leverage in other territories and cases, there is no legal basis for this. Instead, the UK case will proceed according to local courtroom processes.

"There'll be an appeal here and that will run its normal course, relying on the EU registered design and English law," Fowler predicted.

Banned in Germany

In August 2011, Apple successfully won a ban on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany after the South Korean company was found to have infringed on the iPad maker's designs. Apple had applied for an EU-wide ban, but the restrictions were lifted for most of Europe , excluding Germany.

"The US victory is in no way binding on the court that will hear the appeal in relation to the Tab 10.1 design case here" — Colin Fowler, Rouse

Samsung responded by releasing a tweaked version of the device called the Tab 10.1N , which was subsequently found not to violate Apple's intellectual property.

"In respect to Tab 10.1, the validity of Apple's right is being challenged centrally: it's a Europe-wide right, but there's a central administrative body. That's rumbling on and we'll get a decision in due course on whether that right is valid. If it's overturned, it's game over as far as Tab 10.1 is concerned," Fowler said.

Android under the spotlight

The issue puts the spotlight on Android's — or, more specifically, Google's — struggles to nail down intellectual property risk. This is especially true in light of the recent Google-Oracle trial, in which a jury found that components of Android infringed on Oracle's Java APIs, but could not come to a decision on whether that use was fair.

As legal fees pale in comparison with the potential profits to be generated from hit products, the patent litigation merry-go-round isn't likely to end anytime soon.

"One of the underlying issues for Android and Google is that they haven't had these patents, and that's why there was the acquisition of Motorola Mobility to get some firepower to fight back from," Fowler said. "Smartphones and tablets are one of the highest margin areas of any consumer products at the moment, with massive sums of money being made."

Topics: Apple, Legal, Patents, Samsung, Tablets

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