Galaxy Tab Wins British Court Ruling

By | Jul 18, 2012

Samsung's Galaxy Tab has won a favorable ruling from a British court, which found that the Android device did not infringe on Apple patents. The ruling breaks a series of losses for Samsung in its courtroom battles against Apple, one of which led to Google briefly removing it from Google Play (the renamed Android app store).

The message for the IT community at midsize firms is that patent wars among major IT vendors remain alive and well. The debacle of the Oracle lawsuit against Google may eventually slow the rush of tech vendors to defend their positions in a law court instead of the marketplace. But however much IT professionals might wish for an end to the lawsuit wave, it has not broken yet.

The Empire Weighs In

As Roger Cheng reports at CNET, the High Court of England and Wales found that the Galaxy Tab does not infringe on Apple's tablet-device technology patents. The court specified 50 "different recognizable traits" that set the Samsung device apart from Apple's iPad.

Apple and Samsung, the world's two leading smartphone makers, have been locked in a legal battle over patents. The Galaxy Tab is at the heart of Samsung's (and, at least indirectly, Google's) bid to offer a tablet that will challenge the primacy of the iPad.

This marquee status also puts it at the heart of Apple's courtroom pushback against Android and any company using the Google-created mobile operating system. An Apple representative is quoted as asserting that "this kind of blatant copying is wrong and, as we've said many times before, we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."

Apple has won some recent rounds in US courts. A US judge recently banned the Galaxy Nexus, forcing Google to remove it from the Google Play store. Samsung appealed the ruling and got a temporary stay, allowing Google to resume offering the device.

Special Relationship

Court rulings abroad have, of course, no legal force in the United States. But a shared legal heritage going back to the Magna Carta gives UK courts an informal weight that other foreign court rulings lack. Indeed, Samsung voluntarily sought the British trial in hopes of breaking Apple's legal momentum.

In the larger picture, the British ruling is just one more round in the ongoing patent wars among major tech vendors. These courtroom battles complicate the lives of IT managers at midsize firms. While the Galaxy Nexus ban was quickly (if perhaps temporarily) lifted, the risk remains that entire technologies could be sidelined by legal rulings.

An upheld ban on a device or technology already in use would not only mean that it disappears from store shelves. In addition, support for existing users would almost certainly be eliminated as well, leaving them orphaned.

But the more insidious effect is on emerging devices and technologies. IT departments may be afraid to adopt them, in spite of clear advantages, due to advice from the legal department that the technology might be banned, or simply caught in patent limbo.

Thus the IT community at midsize firms continues to have an interest in patent reforms that would encourage vendors to concentrate on developers, not lawyers.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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