A Dutch court has found Samsung guilty of infringing an Apple patent relating to photo management, and ordered a Europe wide ban on the sale of Samsung Galaxy smartphones from October 13th. The Galaxy Tab, Samsung’s iPad rival, has not been named in the injunction and its sales would remain unaffected in this region.
The patent in question, titled “Portable Electronic Device for Photo Management”, illustrates the concept of swiping through a gallery of images on a touchscreen device. Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones, which run on Android 2.3, incorporate this concept of swiping through images. The Galaxy Tab on the other hand runs on Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), which uses a different way of navigating through images, letting it off the hook.
The injunction is applicable in all EU countries where this patent is valid. Surprisingly a number of European countries like Austria, Italy and Romania do not figure in this list since Apple failed to complete the necessary procedures required to file a patent in these regions. However, a ban in Netherlands effectively cripples Samsung’s entire European distribution channel since all of Samsung’s imports go through this area.
The ban kicks in after 7 weeks, which means Samsung would very soon issue a patch for the image viewing software on its smartphones ensuring that it does not violate the patent in question. If the update is delivered within this period of seven weeks, Samsung could escape the ban entirely and there would be no disruption in the sale of its smartphones at all.
Apple had sued Samsung claiming a violation of ten of its patents out of which nine were rejected. So this isn’t exactly the victory Apple would have wanted, but nevertheless it does indicate that other Android phones have very high chances of infringing the photo management patent. In a response to the ruling Samsung issued a statement which read:
“Today’s ruling is an affirmation that the Galaxy range of products is innovative and distinctive. With regard to the single infringement cited in the ruling, we will take all possible measures including legal action to ensure that there is no disruption in the availability of our Galaxy smartphones to Dutch consumers”
As the statement indicates, the legal tussle between Apple and Samsung is nowhere near an end. Samsung has adopted an interesting strategy to defend itself against an iPad design patent in the US. Samsung cites Stanley Kubrick’s ’2001: A Space Odyssey’ movie as prior art against iPad design patent.
Apple had earlier obtained a similar injunction against the Galaxy Tab, which was later suspended over doubts on whether a German court had the right to order a Korean based company to stop selling its products.