The mobile world is locked up in one gigantic legal battle in which every smartphone company is suing every other company for patent violations. That's dumb. What's even dumber though is that Apple has just succeeded in getting a German court to grant a preliminary injunction against the distribution of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 throughout the entire European Union (EU) (with the exception of The Netherlands) on the grounds it infringes on Apple's iPad design.
This decision has nothing to do with patents or copyrights. It has nothing to do with the lawsuits swirling around Android. This particular case was just about the design, the look of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and that's it. Now, I want you to click on this PDF copy of (European] Community design no. 000181607-000. Now, take a long hard look at it. What do you see?
I'll tell you what I see, it's a freaking tablet. Yes, it looks like an iPad. But, it looks just as much like every tablet that's ever existed or ever will exist. It's a tablet.
Where have I seen this before? Why, I remember! I recall my distant cousin Nichelle Nichols, that's Lieutenant Uhura of Star Trek to you, "using" a tablet on the Enterprise back in 1966. I'm not the only one to have noticed the Star Trek/Apple iPad connection. Back when Apple introduced the iPad, actor Brent Spinner, aka Commander Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation, tweeted, "Didn't Captain Picard used to play with a pad like that in his ready room? STAR TREK STRIKES AGAIN!!!" Yes, yes he did.
It's not just Star Trek. For all the excitement about the iPad, real tablets existed for decades before iPad mania came along. Take a look on the left at the PoqetPad. I tested this tablet from Fujitsu in 1991. Except for a few more buttons it sure looks a lot like Apple's protected design to me.
Thus, anyone who's followed tablet computing for the last 20 years, or at least anyone who's watched any Star Trek in the last forty-plus years, would know there's nothing remotely original about Apple's design. This design, which is really nothing more than a tablet with a window on one side, should never have been granted any kind of intellectual property protection.
Never-the-less, it was granted and the brain-dead Regional Court of Düsseldorf has granted Apple a preliminary injunction against Samsung (German link). As a result, if someone tries to sell the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the EU, Samsung will be hit with a 250,000 Euro fine and up to two years of prison time.
Since common sense is in short supply in intellectual property (IP) legal circles, I'm afraid we're going to see more equipment bans in the future. It was bad enough when the only sure thing about IP lawsuits was that we -- the people who buy and use smartphones and tablets -- would have to pay more. Now, thanks to Apple, we may not even have a chance to buy the equipment in the first place.
What is Apple's problem anyway? Afraid of a little competition in the marketplace?
- Apple secures injunction against Samsung Galaxy Tab in E.U.
- Software patents: Lots of whining, but reform unlikely
- Hands-on review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
- Google: 'We can protect the values of Android'
- Microsoft vs. Android