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

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

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • Possibly...

    if the past in any indicator (i.e. when Microsoft was being examined for IE violations) then Europe will likely get it right while the U.S. initially gets it wrong.
  • Possibly, but ...

    if the past in any indicator (i.e. when Microsoft was being examined for IE violations relating to Windows) then Europe will likely get it right while the U.S. initially gets it wrong.
  • The battle between Apple and all of the other tablet and smartphone makers.

    Does anybody else, besides myself see what Apple is trying to do. They are trying to get a monopoly on the industry. I really thought that the US had a law on the books that prevented this from happening. Next thing you know Apple will be taking the big TV makers to court for making televisions that looks like their new TV that is coming out. This is the main reason why I will never buy an Apple product. Yes, I know that Microsoft got hit with the law suit for trying to do the same thing.
    • Reality

      There's no law on books preventing a company from becoming a monopoly. Being a monopoly is NOT illegal, what's illegal is abusing that monopoly. Microsoft got attention from the government and was eventually sued because they were abusing their monopoly.

      Besides, it will be very difficult for Apple to grab monopoly status in the smart phone market, there's just too much competition/choices (thanks Android!).

      Apple is in battle with Samsung around the world, and HTC to a smaller extent. Where are "all the others"?
      • Monopoly

        A patent in its very nature is the limited time grant of MONOPOLY to make, use or sell products embodying the patented invention.

        The notion that somehow patents should NOT create a monopoly goes against the very nature and concept of what patents are.
    • Monopoly on counterfeiting

      Samsung was trying to get a monopoly on corporate counterfeiting. They produced a 130 page, secret, internal document on how to make their phones "better" by copying Apple designs down to the pixel yet they claimed the ideas were "obvious."
      It is rather striking that the company who most slavishly and shamelessly copied Apple is also far and away the most successful Android OEM, indeed most successful cellphone OEM period, outside of Apple.
      • Congrats.

        You're having a monopoly on nonsensical reasoning.
        • Congrats

          Thanks for the useless post.
        • Really?

          Then explain this:

          "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."

          Couple that with the FACT that Samsung did not take Apple's license offer which would have amounted to less than half of the current US court mandated fine and throw in the so-called evidence that Samsung's lawyers released to the public after Judge Kohl rejected it (which turned out to be an internal Apple document speculating how Sony would design a smartphone) Samsung KNEW they were violating Apple's IP - in fact had planned on it. But that's okay because it's Apple's IP right?
          • Respected Athynz,

            See how this funny deliberation of the jury gets crushed by a more reasonable court. See http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=2012082510525390
            These guys turn out to be right in most occasions.
    • It's one thing after another

      Every company would like to have a monopoly. They won't get one, so don't worry about it. Worldwide, Apple has less than 30% of the handset market. Find something new to worry about.

      The U.S. has no law preventing a company from doing things that make mwbrowniii4 think they might be trying to become a monopoly.

      You have a main reason for never buying an Apple product that is based on something that hasn't happened involving a product that doesn't exist. There's just no pleasing you.
      Robert Hahn
      • Maybe not a monopoly but they do want to control pricing

        What concerns Apple is that they know they could sell the iphone cheaper and still make a fair profit BUT they dont want to be forced into this by competition.

        Anyone who says that Samsung phones are exact copies or that Android is the same as iOS clearly hasn't used both. There will also be similarities but I dont see that as being unfair unless you do so to the extent that consumers cannot distinguish between them. The Jury reached their decision on the basis of legal submissions and I doubt if many of them had experience of actually using both. There is also the fact that this was a favoured US company against a South Korean one - go figure how prejudiced a jury in the US is likely to be on that one!
  • 1 billion fine for Samsung, thats peanuts

    The 1 billion fine on Samsung is nothing. Have you seen the size of this company and the other businesses that the company is in?
    I believe this entire episode with Apple has given more visibility for Samsung and their devices. It's not about copying because there are many features in Apple that has been lifted from Android and vice versa. The copying of a design claim is just too weak and dont understand why the US judge has favored Apple. The problem is, the design has become a mainstream product and there is a danger of monopoly. Apple's products are way too expensive and I will side with Samsung that this kind of monopoly will lead to higher cost for the end user. What Apple has to do is wake up and realize their stonghold in this dominating market will whither in time. What did they think? The competition will just stand still. I am almost seeing a repeat of history here where Apple gave way to Microsoft and needed to reinvent itself. It did with resounding success with Steve Jobs at the helm. Apple needs another true visionary and marketing genius like Steve Jobs to stay in this game.
    Alfred Dato