Apple hit with Samsung’s UK legal costs after ‘false and misleading’ apology

David Price
13 November, 2012
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Apple has been ordered to pay the legal costs of mobile tech rival Samsung on an “indemnity basis”, after the UK Court of Appeal decided that the notice Apple posted on its British website to comply with an earlier order was “false and misleading”.

The court said instead of reporting the judgement against it in simple terms, Apple muddied the waters with references to additional cases; and that this was “calculated to produce huge confusion”.

Apple has since posted an improved and simpler notice, along with a statement drawing attention to the inaccuracies of the first:

On 25 October 2012, Apple Inc. published a statement on its UK website in relation to Samsung’s Galaxy tablet computers. That statement was inaccurate and did not comply with the order of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. The correct statement is at Samsung/Apple UK judgement.

The Verge reports that Apple would probably have been expected to pay some portion of Samsung’s legal fees in any case, but the indemnity basis is likely to increase the financial penalty, and adds to the public censure of the judgement.

The UK sub-section of Apple’s global legal tussle with Samsung, in which it has repeatedly accused Samsung of violating patents on its iPad and iPhone products, has been one of the most disastrous for the California company.

Judge Colin Birss originally ruled that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablets did not infringe on Apple’s intellectual property (the only crumb of comfort for Apple was his reasoning: that Samsung tablets “aren’t as cool” as the iPad). He ordered Apple to acknowledge this ruling with a series of adverts in the national newspapers, and with a notice on its UK website. But Apple decided to be cute.

Instead of a straight notice that set forth the terms of the order, Apple quoted the elements of the judgement that were most complimentary to Apple’s designs, and most unflattering to Samsung’s. These implied that Samsung’s products came very close to copying, but simply weren’t as good.

“The extreme simplicity of the Apple design is striking… the design looks like an object the informed user would want to pick up and hold… it is a cool design,” the notice quoted the judge as stating.

“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… they are not as cool.”

Apple vs Samsung UK legal notice

Finally, the Apple notice discussed similar (but more successful) cases it had brought against Samsung in Germany and the US.

“So while the UK court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognised that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung wilfully copied Apple’s far more popular iPad,” the notice concluded smugly.

All very slippery. But Samsung complained that it didn’t comply with the order, and the judges agreed.

“This has received enormous publicity and has perpetuated confusion as to Samsung’s entitlement to market the Galaxy tablet computers in issue,” said Henry Carr QC, representing Samsung. “It has created the impression that the UK court is out of step with other courts.”

The judges of the Apple Court agreed, and Apple was ordered to post a new notice (which, extraordinarily, Apple claimed would take a fortnight to arrange – it was given 48 hours). And now this has been followed by the instruction to pay Samsung’s legal fees on an “indemnity basis”.

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