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Netherlands Supremes squash iPad design patent

If mugs can tell the difference, it's not a copy, says Dutch court

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If even the ordinary man in the street can tell the difference between an Apple iPad and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, then Samsung hasn't infringed on Apple's design rights, according to a court in The Netherlands.

It's not a killer blow in the international patent war-of-running-skirmishes between the two companies: this decision refers only to whether the South Korean company was infringing a “community design”.

The community design is pretty much equivalent to the US design patent that protects the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle, a form of registration sitting between trademarks and “real” patents in a large number of countries.

The case had ended up at The Netherlands' Supreme Court because of setbacks to Apple in lower courts. The Supreme Court has now decided that the ornamental differences between its device and Samsung's are clear enough to be apparent even to an uninformed user, and therefore the Galaxy Tab 10.1 does not infringe on Apple's design right.

The Netherlands' Supreme Court issued this brief statement on Friday, May 31 (Google translation).

While Apple does have some protection, the court has limited the its extent because of the number of earlier, similar designs. Which, El Reg suspects, probably means only the most egregious cases of outright copying would bring Apple a happier experience in front of the judge.

The ruling also means the whole of the EU is off-limits for this particular claim. ®

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