Freshfields loses Apple case as Galaxy tablets not ‘cool’ enough to be copies

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has been defeated for the second time in a week after the High Court ruled that Samsung’s Galaxy tablets do not look “cool” enough to be mistaken for an Apple iPad.

In his judgement, Judge Birss QC ruled that Apple cannot ban sales of the Galaxy tablet under claims that the designs are too similar to that of an iPad, explaining that consumers are unlikely to get the products confused.

“They don’t have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design,” he said. “They’re not as cool. The overall impression produced is different.”

In April The Lawyer revealed details of the high-profile battle (16 April 2012) with Freshfields partner Justin Watts instructing 3 New Square’s Simon Thorley QC for Apple, and Simmons & Simmons partner David Stone instructing 11 South Square’s Henry Carr QC for Samsung.

At the heart of the row was whether Samsung could sell its Galaxy tablet across Europe without infringing Apple’s Registered Community Infringement protections for its rival iPad model. In April Apple successfully applied to have claims brought by Samsung’s Korean parent, Samsung Electronics Co (SEC), dismissed on jurisdictional grounds (4 April 2012).

In May Freshfields turned to 11 South Square heavyweight Michael Silverleaf QC to appeal Mr Justice Mann’s refusal to stay an application made by Samsung for a declaration that it does not infringe the Apple design.

Silverleaf, who was the driving force behind News International’s settlement talks with phone-hacking victims (19 January 2012), led the fight for Apple at the full June hearing.

The decision comes as a double blow to Freshfields, which lost a major patent-battle for the iPad maker against Taiwanese-competitor HTC in London last week (6 July 2012).

The American company has accused Samsung of infringing its design rights in a number of countries, seeking injunctive relief against Samsung’s Galaxy in Germany (9 July 2012) and the Netherlands last year.

Sales of Samsung’s Galaxy 10.1 tablet have been on hold in the US pending the latest decision. Samsung scored a partial victory this week by convincing a US court to lift a sales freeze on its Nexus smartphone.

The legal line-up:

For the claimant Samsung Electronics (UK) Ltd: Simmons & Simmons partner David Stone instructed 11 South Square’s Henry Carr QC to lead Kathryn Pickard also of 11 South Square.

For the defendant Apple: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Justin Watts instructed 11 South Square’s Michael Silverleaf QC and Richard Hacon also of 11 South Square.