Recently, Samsung and Apple have been suing each other in many parts of the world. By August 2011, Apple and Samsung had 19 cases in nine countries, which expanded ten within a month. Half way through 2012, the two companies’ legal disputes climbed over 50 lawsuits. In damages claimed between them, billions of dollars have been awarded.[1] While Apple won a ruling in its favour in the U.S., Samsung won rulings in South Korea, Japan, and the UK.
Since the launch of the iphone, Apple and Samsung, the world’s top two Smartphone makers, have been involved in a litany of litigations globally.  There have been multinational litigations by Apple over technology patents rights. The litigation has been extensive with both global companies engaging in strong competition for consumer mobile communications in the global market.[2] 
With recent court decisions, Apple has suffered a further blow in its patent battle against tablets made by Samsung, its biggest competitor. A court in the Hague, citing previous decisions in British courts, ruled that some of Samsung’s Galaxy tablets are not infringements of Apple’s intellectual property rights. The Dutch district court case centred on the designs (rounded corners) of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Tab 8.9, and Galaxy Tab 7.7.

Originally, the British court ruling upheld a previous decision that said Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet did not infringe upon Apple’s patents. It indeed identified some similarities between the two devices but the court concluded that Samsung’s action did not amount to infringements of Apple’s design in part. Why? Interestingly, according to the court, this is because Samsung’s products were “not as cool.” On a lighter note, Apple has been quoting the judges in their new adverts! Of course, it’s a judicial recognition no company would want turn to a marketing strategy!  

One of the major purposes of Intellectual property rights is to encourage new technologies, inventions and artistic creations while promoting economic growth and protecting creative rights. The four mechanisms for protecting intellectual property in Nigeria and most jurisdictions are Copyright, Trademarks, Patents and Industrial Designs. Patents protect an invention from being made, sold or used by others for a certain period of time. There are patents that protect inventions that have specific functions such as machine technologies etc; known as utility patents. Other patents protect the distinctiveness of manufactured items. When there is an alleged infringement of a patent by a party who has invented a similar device without licence or authorisation, the Claimant has a right to sue.

Apple sued its component supplier Samsung on April 15, 2011 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The  American company  alleged that several of Samsung’s Android phones and tablets, which include  the Nexus S, Epic 4G, Galaxy S 4G, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, amounted to infringements on Apple’s Intellectual Property right. Although according to Apple, Samsung’s alleged infringing actions amounts to patent infringement, trademark infringements and unfair competition, among others, we will focus more on the patent rights.

From the evidence submitted to the court by Apple, the court closely compared the  images of iPhone 3GS and i900 Galaxy S.  This side-by-side comparison of the designs of the dev ice s in question was to enable an illustration of the alleged similarities in packaging and icons for apps, if any. However, Samsung was able to prove that Apple submitted misleading evidence. This argument was accepted by the court.[3] 

In a counter-action, Samsung also sued Apple on April 22, 2011, in courts in Seoul, Tokyo and Germany, also making allegations against Apple for infringement on   the company’s patents for mobile-communications technologies. In June 2011, Samsung also filed suits against Apple in the British High Court of Justice, in the United  States District Court for the District of Delaware, and with the United  International Trade Commission (ITC) in Washington D.C.[4] 

Let’s continue with the Apple cases next week as we look at some of the various decisions of the courts across the world in what has been a legal epic in the history of Intellectual Property Law!

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Nigerian Law Today

NLT’s mission is to take legal-content writing to the next level in Nigeria by leveraging legal expertise and technology. We publish fresh, original, and insightful articles on areas of law we cover.

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