If Apple thought it could spin its way out of a U.K. court-ordered apology to Samsung, the iPhone maker needs to think again. A U.K. judge had mandated Apple post a notice on its Web site that the design of three Samsung Galaxy Tab tablets does not infringe on Apple's patented design. But Apple got creative in the language of the posting, essentially marketing the iPad at Samsung's expense.
Judge Robin Jacob had ordered Apple to post the notice in the wake of an Oct. 18 judgment in favor of Samsung in the patent litigation. But the notice that was posted, Samsung attorney Henry Carr told the court Thursday, created the impression that the court is out of step. Jacob didn't take to kindly to Apple's creativity.
"I'm at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this," Bloomberg quoted Jacob as saying. "That is a plain breach of the order."
Judge Lashes Out
Apple could not immediately be reached for comment. But Michael Beloff, an attorney for Apple, argued in court that Apple's "apology" met the conditions of the court order. He said the notice "is not designed to punish, it is not designed to make us grovel. The only purpose is to dispel commercial uncertainty."
Apple asked for 14 days to make changes to the Samsung notice but the judge denied the request.
"I would like to see the head of Apple make an affidavit setting out the technical difficulties which means Apple can't put this on" their Web site, Jacob said. "I just can't believe the instructions you've been given. This is Apple. They cannot put something on their Web site?"
Apple is now being forced to add three sentences on its homepage admitting that it previously posted "an incorrect statement" and link to the new notice.
Here's the back story: Apple posted a notice last week that acknowledged the court ruled in Samsung's favor on July 9 and linked to the case. Apple also noted that in the ruling, the judge made "several important points" comparing the designs of the Apple and Samsung products. Apple then outlined those points:
"Overall [the design] 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 judge wrote of Apple's iPad.
"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."
Apple noted that the judgment has effect throughout the European Union and was upheld by the U.K. Court of Appeal on Oct. 18, but there was no injunction in respect to the registered design in force anywhere in Europe. Apple then continued to support its own points.
"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," Apple said. "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."