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South Korean court rules that Samsung did not copy the iPhone

August 24, 2012

Trying to keep track of who is suing who in the mobile industry is hard enough. But trying to keep track of which countries the suits are being filed in, is enough to make your head hurt. Currently Apple is in a legal battle with most of the major Android OEMs including HTC, Samsung and Motorola (aka Google). The biggest battle is with Samsung where injunctions have been filed in Australia and in Europe (specifically in Germany and the Netherlands) and where Apple has had some measure of success in blocking the sales of a variety of Samsung devices. On top of this, Apple and Samsung are battling it out in South Korea and of course in the USA.

In the Korean case, the court in Seoul has ruled that while Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone does indeed look very similar to Apple’s iPhone the tech giant did not slavishly copy the iPhone design. “There are lots of external design similarities between the iPhone and Galaxy S, such as rounded corners and large screens … but these similarities had been documented in previous products,” a judge at the Seoul Central District Court said on Friday.

The judge pointed out that there are limited designed decisions which can be made when making a touch screen device and that Samsung has differentiated its products with three buttons on the front (rather than Apple’s one button). Also the judge doubted that consumers would be confused about which product was from Apple and which was from Samsung due to the different company logos on the back of each phone, along with differences in the OS and apps.

However the court did rule that Apple and Samsung have violated each other’s patents and has banned both companies from selling the infringing devices in South Korea. The devices which have been banned include the Galaxy S2, the Galaxy Nexus, the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.

The South Korean market is relatively small for both Samsung and Apple and neither side could be said to have won, but the judgement that both sides violated patents could prove problematic in the future if the two companies can’t resolve their differences and cross license.

A key judgement is expected any time soon from the USA where on Wednesday jurors began deliberation in California in the biggest  Apple vs Samsung case to date.