Dutch Supreme Court: Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 does not infringe on iPad design

Apple's design right is valid, but the protection it offers is very limited due to earlier similar designs, the court said.

By Loek Essers, IDG News Service |  IT Management

Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Tab 10.1 does not infringe on Apple's iPad design right, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled on Friday.

According to Apple, Samsung infringed on the registration of a so-called community design, a form of intellectual property right available in the E.U. that allows businesses to prevent others from copying the outward appearance of their products. The design Apple registered in 2004 shows a rudimentary version of the iPad.

Apple has attempted to get sales of Samsung's Tab 10.1 banned in the Netherlands and the E.U., but lost two rulings in the Netherlands at lower courts in earlier stages of the litigation.

Apple disagreed with the courts' decisions and decided to appeal the case with the Dutch Supreme court. "The Supreme Court today dismissed the appeal," the court stated on its website.

However, the court ruled that Apple's design right has a limited character because the elements used in the design all occur in similar devices manufactured and sold by other companies, and this limits the scope of the design right.

Apple's design right is valid, but the protection it offers is very limited due to earlier similar designs, also known as prior art, the Supreme Court said in the verdict.

Samsung's tablets differ in such a way from Apple's designs that the differences stand out to the informed user, the Higher Court of The Hague ruled in January. "The Supreme court has agreed to this," the court said on Friday.

"Apple was not the first to design a tablet with a rectangular shape and rounded corners," said Samsung spokeswoman Anne ter Braak in an emailed statement, welcoming the decision. "No company should have a monopoly on general designs," Samsung stated, adding that allowing this limits progress and innovation in the industry.

Apple spokesman Alan Hely declined to comment.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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