In an effort to minimize the impact of last year’s ruling by a Dusseldorf court which issued an EU-wide ban on Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet over Apple’s design patents pertaining to the iPad, Samsung thinks it’s found a nice way to weasel its way out of this mess. And
Samsung’s answer to this is simple, really: instead of fighting Apple’s re-asserted claim that its Galaxy tablets “slavishly” copy the iPad, Samsung figured it could delay the lawsuits in Germany by filing an invalidity bid in in another country, Spain. As a result, the German suits over the design of the products are scheduled to be put on hold until the process in Spain is completed. If all venues are used, the process can take as long as four years…
It’s a nice little tactics to avoid adverse rulings from German courts, Bloomberg reports:
Cases covering five Samsung tablet and 10 smartphone models in Dusseldorf have been delayed for months by Samsung filings at the European Union Trademark Office in Alicante, Spain, in a bid to invalidate the intellectual property at the center of the dispute.
Samsung’s tactics might just work.
Any ruling by the Alicante-based trademark authority can be appealed internally and again to a European court. Moreover, the Alicante bid will inevitably delay the pending suit in Germany.
Another thing to consider: Apple’s design patent for the iPad is pretty basic – the company basically patented a rectangle – so Spain’s patent office could easily invalidate it.
Matter of fact, patent litigator Oliver Ruhl warns the Spain agency “lately seems to disregard to a greater extent differences that are merely due to technical design features, leading more easily to the cancellation of IP for devices with a minimalist design”.
This doesn’t bode well for Apple, which recently saw three of its prized iPhone and iPad patents preliminary invalidated by the United States Patent & Trademark Office – specifically, the rubber-banding, touch screen heuristics and pinch-to-zoom inventions, all trademark iPhone features.
And even if the invalidity procedures fail in the end, Ruhl warns, “the attacked products will no longer be on the market once the court can finally issue a ruling”.
Ansgar Ohly, a law professor at Munich University, explains Samsung’s huge risk could pay off in the end:
If you look at the design right registered for the iPad, it seems quite possible that the office will declare it invalid. It’s such a basic form, just a rectangle with rounded corners, that’s not individual enough to stand the test.
As we saw in the case of the $1.05 billion damages ruled in Apple’s favor in the monster Apple v. Samsung trial during August 2012 in the United States, there are many ways to dispute the ruling, some of which include assertions of jury misconduct coupled with invalidation claims.
Such red tape tactics helps delay court decisions that otherwise would have adverse effects.
In the fast-paced world of technology where new gadgets obsolete previous-generation models on a quarterly basis, it is no wonder Samsung is cunningly turning to a court in Spain.
After all, in several moths it will release the Galaxy S IV and other Galaxy products. By the time the German court’s ruling is put into effect, the infringing products will have already been replaced with newer smartphones and tablets, thereby reducing any damage stemming from a sales ban.
Still, such tactics won’t work in the case of the European Commission’s probe into Samsung’s handling of standard-essential patents, potentially resulting in a whopping $15 billion fine.