I am at a loss on how to spin this. Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has found itself proclaiming something contrary to what it has been fighting so hard to prove these last couple of years. Namely, that rival Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) violated one of its key patents.
Apparently, even Apple is not sure how to spin the story. and -- in a single public statement -- affirmed Samsung did and did not infringe the same patent.
How did Apple contort itself into such a weird position? The company was compelled to post a statement on its UK Website declaring Samsung's innocence after the UK Court of Appeal upheld a lower court's ruling that "Samsung Electronic (UK) Limited’s Galaxy Tablet Computer, namely the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7 do not infringe Apple’s registered design No. 0000181607-0001." Apple even provided links to both the lower court's ruling, as well as that of the appeal court. Samsung's "registered design is not the same as the design of the iPad," the court of appeal said.
As Apple noted in its statement, "the ruling has effect throughout the European Union." That should clear things up, right? No. In that same statement, Apple pointed out that a German court ruled in its favor on the same patent, and a California jury awarded it more than $1 billion in damages. Apple goes further:
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. 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.
I haven't found my way out of this maze. I believe many European countries must share this dilemma, except I only have to write about the development and point out how murky the entire technology patent environment has become, while the EU states must enforce conflicting rulings. What will German law enforcement officials do to satisfy a foreign court-issued ruling -- with Europe-wide implications -- that contradicts one from a local court?
And the US ruling in Apple's favor? Even that is fraying at the edges. One of the key patents relied upon by the jury that found Samsung in violation of Apple's patents in the California ruling has now been temporarily invalidated by the US Patent and Trademark Office after a second review. Naturally, Samsung is including this ruling -- which may still be overturned after further review -- in its appeal hearing. So far, Apple hasn't been able to collect its $1 billion award, or even get the Samsung products off the market.
Isn't it time these two companies got together for some serious discussions that will hopefully end this charade?