Apple Loses U.K. Patent Case, Posts Hilariously Backhanded Concession Statement

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 26 2012 10:31 AM

Apple Loses U.K. Patent Case, Posts Hilariously Backhanded Concession Statement

Apple admits that Samsung's Galaxy doesn't infringe on the iPad—because it's "not as cool."
Apple admits that Samsung's Galaxy doesn't infringe on the iPad—because it's "not as cool."

Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/AFP/Getty Images

After a U.K. high court judge upheld a ruling that Samsung's Galaxy tablets did not infringe on Apple's iPad design patents, Apple was forced to publish a notice of the decision on its U.K. website and in major British newspapers. The judge in the original case thought that would help "correct the damaging impression" among the public that Samsung had ripped off its competitor's tablets. According to Ars Technica, a three-judge appeals panel agreed, ruling, "The acknowledgment must come from the horse's mouth. Nothing short of that will be sure to do the job completely."

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Today, Apple complied—in about the most backhanded way you could imagine.

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The company's notice begins with a bit of anodyne (and grammatically challenged) legalese, noting that the court ruled that "Samsung Electronic(UK) Limited’s Galaxy Tablet Computer, namely the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7 do not infringe Apple’s registered design No. 0000181607-0001." Then Apple proceeds to quote "several important points" that the judge made in the original July decision—essentially, the snippets most embarrassing to Samsung. Here are the choice excerpts (emphasis mine):

"The extreme simplicity of the Apple design is striking. Overall it has undecorated flat surfaces with a plate of glass on the front all the way out to a very thin rim and a blank back. There is a crisp edge around the rim and a combination of curves, both at the corners and the sides. The design looks like an object the informed user would want to pick up and hold. It is an understated, smooth and simple product. It is a cool design."
"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."

In the very next line, Apple adds, "That Judgment (sic) has effect throughout the European Union... ." By "that judgment," of course, it means the judgment that Samsung didn't infringe. But the placement of the sentence makes it seem like it's the judge's "not as cool" verdict that has effect throughout the land.

And just on the off chance that anyone was still laboring under the misapprehension that Apple had an ounce of respect for the high court's ruling, it added this final paragraph for good measure:

However, in a case tried in Germany regarding the same patent, the court found that Samsung engaged in unfair competition by copying the iPad design. A U.S. jury also found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple's design and utility patents, awarding over one billion U.S. dollars in damages to Apple Inc. So while the U.K. court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognized that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung willfully copied Apple's far more popular iPad.

That ought to correct a damaging impression, alright. But it's probably not the one that the judge had in mind.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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