Apple Inc. (AAPL) lost a U.K. court appeal ruling over whether Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy tablet infringed the design of the iPad as a judge criticized divergent rulings in the global intellectual property fight between the two companies.
A three-judge panel in London upheld an earlier decision by a U.K. court that said several of Samsung’s Galaxy tablets weren’t “cool” enough to be confused with the iPad. The ruling described as “extreme” a German judgment from July granting Apple a Europe-wide injunction preventing Samsung from selling one model.
The ruling is the latest in a long line of disputes in courts across the globe as rivals including HTC Corp. (2498), Apple and Samsung fight for dominance in the smartphone and tablet computer markets. The cases in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands and Spain often lead to conflicting rulings as judges apply diverging national laws.
“If courts around Europe simply say they do not agree with each other and give inconsistent decisions, Europe will be the poorer,” Judge Robin Jacob said in the written ruling.
Samsung said in an e-mailed statement that it continues “to believe that Apple was not the first to design a tablet with a rectangular shape and rounded corners.”
“Should Apple continue to make excessive legal claims in other countries based on such generic designs, innovation in the industry could be harmed and consumer choice unduly limited,” the company said.
Alan Hely, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment on today’s ruling.
Apple must also publish notices in U.K. newspapers with details of the U.K. ruling, Judge David Kitchin said today.
Jacob said a publicity order was necessary to avoid consumer confusion because of the news coverage of the “not as cool” judgment in the U.K. and the contrasting German court’s decision.
A link to the notice must appear on Apple’s website for one month and the company must publish it in the Financial Times and Daily Mail newspapers.
Apple has agreed to ask the German court to “discharge” the injunction, Jacob said.
If Apple’s registered design “has a scope as wide” as the Cupertino, California company says, “it would foreclose much of the market for tablet computers,” Jacob said.
U.K. judges attempt to give “appropriate consideration to the judgments of” foreign courts in related litigation, said Will James, a lawyer at Marks & Clerk Solicitors LLP.
“It is incredibly frustrating for the legal community as a whole, and for IP rights owners in particular -- who rely heavily on the courts for commercial certainty -- to see judgments that have apparently failed to attempt to apply a consistent approach,” James, who isn’t involved in the case, said in an e-mail.
Courts around the world have issued divergent rulings in patent cases between the two companies. In August, Apple won a $1.05 billion U.S. jury verdict in a patent case between the companies, while a week later a Tokyo court ruled Samsung products don’t infringe an Apple invention for synchronizing music and video data with servers.
Australian and Dutch courts have also issued rulings that contrasted with decisions in the U.S. case.
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