Apple Inc. is unlikely to win a ban on sales of Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy 10.1N tablet computer, a modified version introduced after sales of the original tablet were blocked, a German court said.
The Dusseldorf court that banned sales of the Galaxy 10.1 on Sept. 9 is unlikely to grant Apple an injunction against the Galaxy 10.1N, presiding judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann said at a hearing Thursday. Samsung has changed the device’s design sufficiently to distance it from the iPad, she said, adding that the view is preliminary. A ruling was scheduled for Feb. 9.
“Consumers are well aware that there is an original and that competitors try to use similar designs, so buyers are vigilant when looking at products,” Brueckner-Hofmann said. “We don’t think that someone buys a Samsung to make his table neighbor at the coffee house believe he owns an iPad.”
Apple has faced setbacks in its legal fight against Samsung, its closest rival in tablet computers, since its initial September success in Germany. The iPad maker failed to convince an Australian court on Dec. 9 to reinstate a ban in that country and two days ago, a Dusseldorf court voiced doubts about the reach of Apple’s European Union design right that was the basis for the company’s Sept. 9 injunction.
The new Samsung tablet has thicker edges and the front screen has speakers which distinguish it from the iPad, the court said. There is also a broad Samsung label that ensures consumers aren’t confused, according to the judges.
Apple’s lawyer Matthias Koch argued that Samsung is still exploiting the reputation of the iPad.
“That’s the typical strategy: You try to come as close as possible to the original and if you can no longer do it you introduce marginal changes,” Koch said. “Even the packaging is one-to-one like that of the iPad.”
Samsung lawyer Thomas Musmann argued that Cupertino, California-based Apple is trying to monopolize the tablet format.
“It’s not that there were no other tablets around and that all that came after the iPad are an illicit copy,” Musmann said.
Technology companies, including Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung, Apple, Microsoft Corp. and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. are fighting in courts around to world to stake out intellectual property claims in the growing market for tablets. As many as 2.1 million tablet computers will be sold in Germany in 2011, an increase of 162 percent from 2010, Bitkom, a technology and telecommunications association, said last week.