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British judge: Say you're sorry Apple... this time like you MEAN it

Smackdown for surly 8-yr-old style Samsung copy statement

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Apple was told to apologise properly to Samsung by three British judges at the UK Court of Appeals this morning. Judge Robin Jacob reprimanded Apple for putting up an "incorrect" and "non-compliant" statement about the patent lawsuit and said it had 48 hours to publish a better one.

In line with a court order from July, Apple published a statement on its UK homepage saying that Samsung had not in fact infringed one of its registered iPad designs.

But Apple's six-paragraph ramble posted on 26 October was not compliant with the court order, ruled Lord Justice Longmore, Lord Justice Kitchin and Sir Robin Jacob. Apple's "apology" included several digs at Samsung - quotes from the judge saying that Samsung's fondleslab is "not as cool" as the iPad, a mention of favourable judgments of other patent lawsuits between the two in other countries and, finally, the closing assertion that "Samsung willfully copied Apple's far more popular iPad".

Judge Jacob said:

I’m at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this. That is a plain breach of the order.

This time the judges also specified font size 11 for the website announcement.

Apple protested that it wanted 14 days to make the changes. Bloomberg reports that Judge Jacob kicked the suggestion out of the courtroom.

“I would like to see the head of Apple make an affidavit setting out the technical difficulties which means Apple can’t put this on their site," Jacob said. “I just can’t believe the instructions you’ve been given. This is Apple. They cannot put something on their website?”

This very public humiliation for Apple by the UK courts is unprecedented says Khurram Aziz, news editor at Intellectual Property Magazine.

It was already an unprecedented decision by the UK Court of Appeal to force Apple to put a statement on its website saying that its rival Samsung does not infringe the design of its iPad. Defendants which have lost a patent case have had to do this before, but this was the first time a plaintiff which failed to win the litigation has had to release such a statement.

The fact that the judges weren’t happy with Apple’s first statement and are asking it to immediately replace it with a much more strongly worded message, shows just how damaging they believe Apple’s suit against Samsung could have been.

Aziz suggests that the judges may have considered that patent lawsuits could confuse consumers, and decided that robust statements are needed to clear that confusion up. Apple's original statement was not considered to be robust.

Apple's mention of the German court ruling took it into murky territory, as the UK court decision should have been binding for the European Community area, as detailed by Judge Birss here.

Apple told us it had no comment on the matter. ®

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