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Apple loses UK tablet design appeal versus Samsung (bbc.co.uk)
106 points by Suraj-Sun on Oct 18, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

Technicalities aside, the whole Apple vs Android IP debate seems like it might be some sort of pinnacle. A big public case study.

These are products that a lot of people are highly engaged an opinionated about, in ways that PCs and laptop never were.^

I think we clearly see Apple leading the way (so far) with its designs & innovations. They figured out a whole lot of things that needed to be figured out in order to get a computer to pocket size and for tablet computing to work. Some of these are technical details but a lot of them are not. They're just ideas about what it should look like and how users should interact with it. Software keyboard. slide-to-unlock, rounded corners. A bunch of decisions that together amount to either a good or bad product. They may or may not have been invented at Apple but Apple did put them together and prove them in the market. They placed huge bets on these ideas and won.

I think that last part is the crucial part of innovation that IP laws are inherently useless at protecting: Putting things together to make a product and proving them in the market. It's also the part that Apple is good at.

On the other hand...

Apple is making a lot of money on iOS stuff so its hard to make the claim that they haven't been compensated. It's also hard to claim that these innovations would not have happened without the incentives guarded by IP protection. The opposite is true. We see the Android ecosystem driving down prices and improving the pace of innovation. We see more choice, including options at lower price points that Apple would never have served.

^I'm not sure, but I think this in itself is part of Apple's cultural influence. They've been encouraging people to think about products the way architects want people to think about buildings.

> I think we clearly see Apple leading the way (so far) with its designs & innovations.

I don't know if you're joking, but Apple hasn't "innovated" in the mobile space for 2 or 3 years now. They've just been copying Android, with things like multitasking, notifications, and turn-by-turn directions. As of late, their new "features", such as Siri and Maps, have been half-baked. Basic options, such as changing the default app for a function or adding widgets to the home screen, still aren't available.

On the hardware side, people applaud their industrial design when they see it in an Apple store, but in actual use, the glass backing on the iPhone 4 and 4S broke frequently, and now the aluminum on the 5 gets chipped/scratched very easily. As for form factor, they're now copying Amazon and Google by releasing an iPad Mini.

Turn-by-turn directions was an Android innovation?

Because I could swear that I've got a Windows Mobile 5.0 smart phone in the office that has Tom Tom software running on it that has been about since before the iPhone or Android existed.

As for your criticisms as to how the iPhone works in the real world, the iPhone's industry leading customer satisfaction ratings (and by a comfortable margin) suggests that you might be overstating the case just a smidge.

> Turn-by-turn directions was an Android innovation?

In the way it's done in Google Maps Navigation? Absolutely. I used a variety of standalone turn-by-turn GPS navigation devices, including Tom Tom and Garmin, before getting an original Droid in 2009, the first device with Google Maps Navigation. There was a world of difference between the two devices, and things have only gotten better with time.

I don't have any experience with Windows Mobile, but like the OP said, it's all about putting things together into a cohesive package. That's exactly what Google did with Maps Navigation.

> As for your criticisms as to how the iPhone works in the real world, the iPhone's industry leading customer satisfaction ratings (and by a comfortable margin) suggests that you might be overstating the case just a smidge.

I don't think that customer satisfaction ratings are reflective of a company's level of innovation. I know several people who've broken the glass backs on their iPhone 4s and 4Ss three or four times. The reason why they haven't complained (too much) is because there's an Apple store 15 minutes a way that will quickly replace the glass plate for free.

If the state of the smartphone market is such that incremental improvements in turn-by-turn mapping is now a mark of innovation then the market has got stale very, very quickly. When Apple release a new version of iOS with 200 incremental improvements which operate in a cohesive package (because even the iPhone's staunchest critics tend to accept that it does that well), it's criticised as unambitious yet here it's touted as innovation?

I'm not saying that customer satisfaction ratings reflect innovation. I'm saying that if the design was as flawed as suggested you'd expect people to be unhappy with their phones which clearly they're not.

You know people who've broken the glass three or four times, I know no-one who ever has out of dozens of people who own 4s and 4Ss. Anecdotal evidence is pretty poor for this sort of thing (my friends may wrap their phones in cotton wool, yours may sky dive with them) which is why I point to something which could be seen as a more objective measure, though I accept it's measuring many things, not just this one factor.

Not saying that there's no problem, just saying that saying "frequently" is an overstatement. I suspect if it was a massive problem the press would have a field day - it's not like the go easy on Apple design issues (see antenna-gate et al).

I usually despise the word, but Google has indeed disrupted turn-by-turn navigation. The day they announced to provide it for free and integrated, TomTom and other stock crashed.

Disruption isn't innovation, at least not in the sense that's being discussed here.

Google disrupted the market by innovating on the business / payment model, but that's very different to product innovation.

MS frequently used to disrupt markets by entering at lower price points but no-one ever claimed they were innovative, quite the opposite.

In my opinion, that is innovation and is somwhat related to the discussion.

Your comment is missing "fanboy" and "iSheeple" to be complete.

I agree. Opening your comment with "I don't know if you're joking, but" is insulting to the OP. It might fly on other forums, but it has no place here. It's condescending.

Not to mention that "2 or 3 years" ago was when Apple introduced the world to the iPad, of which the rest of the industry is still struggling to match the impact. Before that introduction, did you assume that Apple hadn't been innovating for "2 or 3 years" since the iPhone?

The issue I'm seeing is that IP protections are government-granted monopolies and I can't think of any good that ever came from government-granted monopolies, except maybe in healthcare for some European countries, but that's highly debatable too.

It's also a fact that a monopoly is against the free market and while it's completely debatable whether this is good or bad for innovation or the common good ... in a free market, the law of the fittest applies. The ones that innovate are the ones that have a head-start. The ones that don't either die or if they are too big to die, they are subject to the innovator's dilemma. This is why you can see newer technologies and platforms disrupt older and bigger companies. But unfortunately, these big companies, instead of innovating and keeping pace are now choosing to use the ultimate weapon against free-market competition: government-granted monopolies.

This notion that you have to be rewarded for ideas and designs is completely preposterous, because innovators are already rewarded by the market for being first. And if not, they shouldn't get rewarded with such a monopoly anyway, because if these monopolies go so out of control, there will never be another Apple, because Apple themselves got a lot of ideas and concepts from the prior works of others.

Sensible decision there really, and hopefully it'll keep Apple from being silly again. Although they could write something similar:

"In agreement with the court ruling Apple acknowledges Samsung hasn't copied the design of the iPad. As the judge stated Samsung products lack the simplicity of the iPad."

Might get them in bother mind, but if a judge is willing to say your product is much cooler in a court of law, on the record no less, you may as well take what you can.

> As the judge stated Samsung products lack the simplicity of the iPad.

I think their marketing guys are going to have a feast on this. They could start playing around the lines: Samsung tablets are not as cool or simple as ours. Sorry for taking this too far intend of working on cool stuff for you — our lawyers are design challenged.

Given that Apple has a history of doing similar things in adverts I can see them at least trying it, whether the Samsung legal team lets them is a different story.

Kind of like how they lost to Microsoft, then had ads (10+ years later) saying "Redmond, get your photocopiers ready." That was pretty distasteful considering the bailout by Microsoft in 1997. Oh well, competition is competition.

I would have no problem with that line if it weren't in Apple's blood to copy copy copy, at least to the same degree if not more than Microsoft. The hypocrisy is really what annoys me.

It's not copy when you improve it. Whenever I use Unity or Win7 I see lots of little details "copied" from OSX.

That was pretty distasteful considering the bailout by Microsoft in 1997

It wasn't a "bailout" it was a legal settlement.

What are you talking about? I'm referring to the investment Microsoft made in 1997 to rescue Apple from bankruptcy, not to mention their contributions to add value to their system. Definitely a bailout.

Edit: http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2009/08/dayintech_0806/


That investment was (in part, along with a cash settlement) the resultion of a dispute over Microsoft using Quicktime code in their Video for Windows product.

Pretty sure Microsoft would have no problem holding their own in court - they had a good track record at that point. Seems like they just leveraged their and Apple's positions to bundle it into the deal.

If it were a "settlement", it would have happened in the court room. Apple surrendered the case just to stay alive.

The simplicity thing is a win for both camps in terms of marketing.

> "In agreement with the court ruling Apple acknowledges Samsung hasn't copied the design of the iPad

The court ruled no such thing. "[The case] is not about whether Samsung copied Apple's iPad. Infringement of a registered design does not involve any question of whether there was copying: the issue is simply whether the accused design is too close to the registered design..."

From Apple's perspective it's a loss but if you're going to lose, having a judge publicly critique your competitors product is a pretty great way to do it.

Someone said it'll be interesting to see what Samsung's lawyers let Apple get away with but I'm not sure how they can object to Apple quoting what the judge actually said in his judgement.

The more this line of cases makes it in the news, the higher the general public's recognition of Samsung tablets becomes and thus Apple's case weakens... Interesting negative feedback loop!

Streisand effect in full motion

Although the damage is done, I find it refreshing this type of court decision. Six months of "no copy" advertising isn't enough to reverse the damage but it's a start...

As someone with little faith in the UK judicial system, this just doesn't make any difference to my views. I can already tell when someone is guilty of plagiarism. Samsung sinks of it. Anybody can see that. This verdict is not going to have any effect on people, and as i have found out at work among many colleges it more than solidifies peoples opinion that Samsung has done nothing but rip off Apple. Where as for instance when you compare the ipad/iphone to Microsoft's attempts its quite clear they are trying something different and people can see that as well.

> I can already tell when someone is guilty of plagiarism

Plagiarism? The case has nothing to do with plagiarism. It's not about copyright, it's about registered designs. Quoting TFA: "It is not about whether Samsung copied Apple's iPad. Infringement of a registered design does not involve any question of whether there was copying: the issue is simply whether the accused design is too close to the registered design according to the tests laid down in the law." And it isn't.

Example: If I have never heard of the ipad, and come up with an identical design purely by coincidence, then I still do infringe their registered design right. Conversely, if I copy Apple's design exactly but then alter it enough that it "produce[s] on the informed user a different overall impression" from the ipad, I don't infringe.

It's actually of little consequence what people think. The world still turns, Apple's products are still popular, Samsung's products are still popular.

Apple does not sue because they want people's acknowledgement, they sue because they want those products banned from the market and for Samsung to pony up a huge amount of money as injunction relief.

And I don't know what was at stake in the UK, but you can bet your ass that a favorable verdict is looked upon by the judges of other countries involved in similar trials.

Does Samsung deserve what Apple wants? I don't know - but we are definitely not talking about clones and so where the heck do you draw the line? Because in my view this issue is much closer to "rectangular shape and rounded corners" than it is to anything else.

The Surface looks more like the iPad than the Galaxy Tab. Don't get me wrong, Samsung ripped the original iPhone off with their Galaxy S(1) but anything beyond that just didn't happen. Decisions like this make me proud of our British judicial system.

Metro and Surface have been a great exercise in avoiding infringment of Apple patents.

I totally agree, everyone believe that Samsung replicated much of the iPad. I wouldn't have necessarily disagreed if the court decided that no infringement occurred and that was it but the idea of forcing a company to release an apology in a newspaper comes straight from the 19th century, I have little faith in common law in this case.

I totally agree, everyone believe that Samsung replicated much of the iPad.

I don't think this is just replication. There's only a handful of ways you can craft the simplest design[1] of a tablet computer, and the possibilities don't differ much. Apple happened to enter the market first but the tablets wouldn't eventually be much different if someone else had. The collective design would've converged to something like iPAD in a few years.

[1] You can certainly generate thousands of different tablet designs if you don't care about creating the simplest one. But once you do, it pretty quickly boils down to the fundamentals of designing roughly an A5-size device with a dominating touchscreen. It goes pretty much as "The touchscreen takes 95% of the front face. If you want button(s) on any side, you put them below the screen because people hold their tablets from underneath, instead of grabbing them from the top. You put any USB/headphone sockets on the side so that the user can put it on a table while charging/heaphones connected." Given those limits, you maybe get to decide if you want square or round edges or something in between. But that's just cosmetic and certainly doesn't warrant being "a design".

> Apple happened to enter the market first

They didn't even do that. They entered a market that was created well over a decade ago but that was reduced to a tiny niche because limitations in the early models had scared companies off from trying to make them consumer devices any more.

They deserve a lot of credit for getting the timing right and putting together a very polished consumer product far superior to the extremely niche competitors that were left in that market, but the idea was old already when the tablet market started taking off for a short lived fad last time, around '99.

(in the interest of disclosure: I worked on a tablet in '99 until early 2000; it was fun. Definitively not something comparable to the iPad, but I still wish we'd have pulled it off - company kept trying a few years after I left, but getting funding for a decent sized production run turned out to be a far bigger challenge than actually designing the thing)

There's only a handful of ways you can craft the simplest design of a tablet

But apparently that idea is itself radical, since almost no tablets before ~2007 strove for the simplest design.

Almost no tablets before 2007 were marketed to consumers. As soon as they were, they all converged on the exact same style as other consumer goods like TVs, digital photo frames, ...

> but the idea of forcing a company to release an apology in a newspaper comes straight from the 19th century, I have little faith in common law in this case

So you think it is perfectly ok for a company to make very public accusations repeatedly and get away without providing any kind of restitution once their claims are found to be without merit?

Now that would be carte blanche for some seriously nasty mudslinging competitions...

(and this case was not about whether or not Samsung "replicated much of the iPad" but whether or not they violated some very specific design patents)

Also Apple have to put notice on their website and newspaper/magazines saying that Galaxy tab does not "copy" iPad for 6 month http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18895384. Big humiliation from Apple's side.

The appeal reduces it to a month, and they just have to have a link on the homepage saying "Apple / Samsung ruling" which I'm guessing isn't going to be that visible.

Minor inconvenience in the great scheme of things.

Expect full page ads:

"Samsung tablets are not as cool as Apple's" — Judge Name

I ask because I do not know:

Is the US the only country to have found in Apple's favour in these cases?

No, Apple has won cases in Germany and Japan, while litigation is ongoing in Spain & Australia I think.

Haven't Apple only won the interim injunction in German? This injunction was heavily criticized in and (AFAIK) effectively removed by the UK decision, and Apple had applied for it to be withdrawn anyway.

> Secondly I cannot see any basis for an interim injunction. The UK court had already granted a final declaration. Moreover it was sitting not just as a UK court but as a Community Court. Interim injunctions are what you grant in urgent cases where there is not enough time to have a full trial on the merits. That was not this case. [...] Further Judge Birss was not sitting as a purely national court. [...] So his declaration of non-infringement was binding throughout the Community. It was not for a national court - particularly one not first seized - to interfere with this Community wide jurisdiction and declaration.

> Finally I regret to say that I find the Oberlandesgericht's reasoning on the merits sparse in the extreme

> If courts around Europe simply say they do not agree with each other and give inconsistent decisions, Europe will be the poorer.


To clarify to both this and the other comment, Apple has won certain suits in both Germany and Japan and lost others, just as it has lost certain motions in the US. I did not mean to imply that Apple had never lost any legal motion in both those countries, just that courts had found in their favour in those countries in some cases. I think that's what the OP was asking.

Where can I see the ads in action?

Doesn't this strike anyone as unusual? IANAL (or a solicitor for that matter) but this seems like the sort of ruling you'd get in some sort of defamation case. This was a patents case. Isn't the court over stepping the mark with this, or is it not unusual?

Apple was hit with this because they _were_ in effect defaming Samsung by being extremely aggressive about making statements about how they had a slam dunk case that Samsung were ripping them off, well beyond just saying they were "confident" or similar vague phrase that parties often throw around.

If they'd left the talking to their lawyers in the court room, this would indeedhave been a strange ruling. But the judge has in effect made an attempt at providing Samsung restitution of sorts for the false claims Apple were repeatedly making in the press.

They even sent out statements that basically pretended the original court ruling against them didn't happen in response to media inquiries about that ruling. That had to require huge brass balls, but I can't see it impressing any judge.

Edit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18773690

'Apple declined to comment specifically on the UK case but, in a statement, repeated its view that there was no "no coincidence" that Samsung's latest products resembled the iPhone and iPad.

It added: "This kind of blatant copying is wrong and, as we've said many times before, we need to protect Apple's intellectual properties when companies steal our ideas."'

The decision was only today. I imagine it'll be a while before the Apple/Samsung/the Courts get the wording etc. agreed and the ads are displayed.

Thanks. I misread the article and thought they had to "continue running the ad". As if they were already running it. Switched off my adblocker for nothing it seems :)

As Apple says in the "thumb" ad, it's common sense :)

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