updated 07:40 am EDT, Fri September 9, 2011
German court backs Galaxy Tab 10.1 preliminary ban
Apple on Friday won a ruling that upheld a preliminary German ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and beyond in Germany. The Dusseldorf court restriction prevents Samsung's German division from selling not just the one Android tablet but future models like the Galaxy Tab 7.7 until the end of the full trial, which is expected to wrap only within about one year. Samsung can appeal quickly in Higher Regional Court but could face another several weeks without sales.
Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann rejected Samsung's view that Apple's community design was too generic, saying that there were more ways to design a tablet.
"The court is of the opinion that Apple's minimalistic design isn't the only technical solution to make a tablet computer, other designs are possible," she ruled. "For the informed customer there remains the predominant overall impression that the [Galaxy Tab line] looks [like the iPad]."
The court decision also at least for now upholds the community design as valid and could see Apple take action if it wanted against others it believes are infringing on the technology. Local cheap tablet maker Jay-tech has been contesting the design along with Samsung. Without a more significant challenge, however, a chilling effect could exist where other companies are discouraged from shipping tablets that they know look similar to either the Apple or Samsung designs.
Samsung has avoided a Europe-wide ban and was exonerated in the Netherlands. The ban is nonetheless serious as it effectively ends sales of modern Galaxy Tab models in an important country. The Korean company has made a habit of new device introductions at Mobile World Congress in February and could see the Tab 7.7, 8.9, and 10.1 banned even up to the point where they would be replaced by their sequels. Those replacements themselves might be restricted if they aren't significantly different.
Although certain design traits aren't necessarily easy to avoid, Samsung may have condemned itself with its redesign of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 early this year. Two weeks after showing the original 'fat' model, Samsung admitted wanting to redesign to beat the iPad 2. Within just a few weeks it mysteriously had a considerably slimmer design that, while different in some areas, was considerably more reminiscent of the second-generation Apple tablet.