Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has won an important – although somewhat Pyrrhic – court victory against its chief rival.
British High Court judge Colin Birss ruled on Monday that Samsung's Galaxy tablets do not infringe on Apple Inc.'s design of the popular iPad.
His reasoning? Samsung's tablets aren't likely to be mistaken for iPads because they are "not as cool."
The ruling means Samsung is safer now from an injunction banning the sale of its tablets in the region – even if it also casts those tablets in a less than flattering light.
"They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool," Judge Birss said. "The overall impression produced is different."
So far, consumers seem to at least partially agree with the judge's reasoning. Even if several companies, including Samsung, have managed to close the gap with the iPhone in the smartphone market, the iPad remains by far the most dominant name among tablets.
Apple and Samsung are currently involved in dozens of patent infringement suits and countersuits on four continents, largely related to Apple's claims that much of Samsung's smartphone and tablet design is unfairly copied from iPhones and iPads.
Samsung vigorously denies those claims, and argues that Apple's aggressive legal strategy threatens to stifle innovation in the mobile technology industry.
In recent months, Apple has managed to score a few important victories, including convincing a judge to temporarily halt sales of the Samsung Galaxy tablet in the United States.
Samsung, however, has won two important battles in recent weeks – first when a U.S. Judge overturned a sales ban against Samsung's high-end Nexus smartphone, and now with Judge Birss's ruling.
The outcome of the myriad lawsuits between the two companies is likely to have a cataclysmic effect on the consumer technology industry.
Not only are Apple and Samsung the two biggest players in the smartphone market in terms of profit, but Samsung also relies on Google's Android operating system software – the same software that runs on millions of phones from some of the world's biggest smartphone manufacturers.