The intellectual property dispute between Apple and Samsung is very well documented but remains widely misunderstood. We have covered different stages of the dispute here and here. It is now well known that a US jury awarded Apple a large sum in damages. It is also well known that Samsung have been successful in litigation in the UK. What is less well known is that the subject matter at the heart of these two disputes is different.
The UK litigation relates to one of Apple's registered designs. Apple claimed that Samsung's Galaxy range of tablets infringed that design but the Court of Appeal found that no infringement had taken place.
Given the large amount of publicity and uncertainty that has surrounded this case, the Court ordered Apple to publish a statement to the effect that no infringement had taken place. The Court provided two short paragraphs that Apple was asked to add to its website and publish in a number of newspapers.
The statement published by Apple on its website did include all the information contained in the Court's two paragraphs but Apple added some information of its own. Apple added some quotations from the judgement that stated that Apple's design was "striking" and "simple". Apple also pointed out that the Court commented that the Samsung design was "not as cool" as Apple's.
A final paragraph was added to the statement that read:
"...A US jury...found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple's design and utility patents, awarding over one billion US dollars in damages to Apple Inc. So, while the UK court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognized that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung wilfully copied Apple's far more popular iPad."
Samsung complained about the alterations and claimed that they undermined the intended effect of the statement.
The Court of Appeal considered Apple's notice in detail and ultimately agreed with Samsung's argument that the additions ‘muddied the water'. In particular the Court noted that at no point did the UK case compare the iPad to Samsung's Galaxy tablet. The UK litigation concerned Apple's registered design right. There has never been an Apple product made in accordance with the registered design in question. The reference to comparing the iPad with the Samsung Galaxy tablet was clearly misleading. The Court also commented that the reference to the US decision was likely to be misunderstood by the public. The US jury rejected Apple's claim based on this particular design. This means that the decisions are broadly the same rather than being at odds with each other.
A new notice is now up on the website which, as well as containing the original text ordered by the Court, makes it clear that the altered notice was inaccurate and failed to comply with the Court's first order. Apple was also ordered to pay Samsung's legal costs for the hearing on an "indemnity basis". This is an increased scale which takes into consideration the fact that the Court disapproves of the conduct of a party.
The ability of the Court to order this type of publicity should be appealing to successful parties in IP litigation. This kind of publicity in the press or on a company's own website can be hugely embarrassing and potentially damaging. In this case Apple seemed to be attempting to put a pro-Apple spin on the statement. This damages the utility of the remedy and for that reason the decision is welcomed.