We are all too familiar with the endless patent disputes between Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Samsung Corp. However, a July 9 decision by a British court that Samsung's Galaxy tablets don't infringe on Apple's registered designs has gone a little too far in treating the giant manufacturer as if it were a naughty kid.
Judge Colin Birss ordered Apple to publish a notice for six consecutive months on its UK Website and in major UK newspapers saying that Samsung didn't copy designs for the iPad. So far, I have seen no "I'm sorry, Samsung" on the Apple site. And I hope I will never see such an embarrassing statement from Apple -- or any other manufacturer, for that matter. It's simply too ridiculous. The court decided last week to delay Apple's punishment, at least for a couple of months until the ruling is appealed.
As many of us had expected, Apple's attorney, Richard Hacon, appealed the decision. The appeal will be heard in October. This buys Apple some time that it might use to reach an agreement with the South Korean manufacturer.
No company on this planet likes to advertise its competitors on its Website. However, from a marketing point of view, the ruling that Samsung's tablets are unlikely to be confused with the iPad because they are not as cool is a big affirmation of the uniqueness of Apple's products. In the eyes of Judge Birss, there is no reason for Apple's claim that Samsung is a copycat.
One question that pops into my mind is what would happen if Apple decided to stop being one of Samsung's biggest customers. Billions of dollars go from Apple to Samsung. In an ideal world, it would make sense for both CEOs to sit down like adults and come to a mutually satisfying agreement. The companies have practically lost control of whose technology is whose anyway.
What could happen if the appeal were denied? I don't see Apple advertising for Samsung in any possible way. Stopping Apple's products from shipping to the UK while this issue gets settled? That sounds like a more reasonable way for Apple to keep its integrity as an enterprise that shouldn't be punished like a kid.
Was this ruling the best a judge could do, or was this a way of telling the world that the patent litigation is out of control and needs to be stopped? After all, both Apple and Samsung have been embarrassed this time by the same judge in the same court. They should join forces and spend their time and money finding better solutions to their multibillion-dollar patent problems.
Meanwhile, in the US, Apple and Samsung are continuing their $2.5 billion patent dispute in a federal court in San Jose. That is, until it's time to go back to the British court.