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Galaxy Tabs do not infringe on Apple design patents, Dutch court rules

Rectangular design of Smasung smartphone is not covered by the scope of Apple's design rights

By Loek Essers
January 16, 2013 11:31 AM ET

IDG News Service - Samsung Electronics' Galaxy tablets do not infringe on an Apple design right, the District Court of The Hague ruled Wednesday in response to a request by Samsung.

At issue was Apple's registration of a rectangular tablet with rounded corners as a "Community Design," a form of intellectual property right available in the European Union that allows businesses to prevent others from copying the outward appearance of their products. Apple has attempted to assert the design right to prevent sales of Samsung tablets before, with mixed results.

In his ruling on Wednesday, the president of the panel of three judges, Peter Blok, wrote: "The Galaxy Tab 7.7, 8.9 and 10.1 of Samsung are not covered by the scope of the community design." This means that Samsung does not infringe on an Apple design right when it manufactures, supplies, markets, imports, exports or uses those products in the Netherlands and the E.U., according to the verdict.

The court cleared a number of Samsung subsidiaries, including Samsung Benelux and Samsung Europe Logistics, of infringement, and ordered Apple to pay Samsung's costs of $169,512.

This verdict does not, however, prevent Apple from litigating against Samsung, the spokeswoman said.

The community design at stake covers a "handheld computer" and shows sketches of an iPad-like device. The E.U. Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) acknowledged registration of the design in 2004. OHIM also administers the database of E.U.-registered trademarks.

In August 2011, Apple lost an earlier lawsuit in the Netherlands involving the same community design, a loss that Apple appealed in the Dutch Supreme Court.

Because that case only covered the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Samsung sought clarification and asked the court to rule that its other tablets also don't infringe on Apple's design right, a request that resulted in Wednesday's ruling.

Apple, in a counterclaim, asked the court to rule that Samsung infringed on the design right and asked the court to grant a sales ban on the named products.

In its verdict, the court referred to jurisprudence from other lawsuits between the two companies in Europe concerning the same community design. The most important one is a verdict of the U.K. Court of Appeal that confirmed in October a verdict from the U.K. High Court, ruling that the Galaxy Tab 7.7, 8.9 and 10.1 are not protected by the scope of the community design.

That ruling was used as a guide by the District Court of The Hague, because the British judgement related to the same legal issue as in the Dutch case, Blok wrote. "Moreover, the judgement was made by a higher court than this court," he said, adding that the fact that there were other Samsung entities involved in the Dutch case does not lead to a different conclusion.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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