German Court Rejects Samsung’s Kubrick Defense of Galaxy Tab

A German court has said “NEIN!” to Samsung’s claim that devices depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey constitute prior art for Apple’s iPad. The ruling was handed down earlier in September and upheld an earlier injunction barring the import of Galaxy Tab devices into Germany, but a translation of the full ruling published Friday reveals the specifics of what The Mac Observer dubbed “The Kubrick Defense.”

In appealing the original injunction granted Apple earlier in the Summer, Samsung had argued that two props used in 2001: A Space Odyssey constituted prior art for Apple’s iPad, as shown in the movie frame below, and that this should nullify Apple’s “Community Patent,” which is similar to a Design Patent in the U.S.


Frame from 2001: A Space Odyssey, as submitted by Samsung in a court document
(Click theimage for the original movie frame) 

Apple was granted the Community Patent for the iPad based on the style and construction of the iPad. These specific factors were cited in the ruling as main aspects of the patent:

(i) an overall rectangular shape with four evenly-rounded corners,
(ii) a flat clear surface covering the front of the device that is without any ornamentation,
(iii) a rectangular delineation under the clear surface, equidistant to all edges,
(iv) a thin rim surrounding the front surface,
(v) a backside with rounded corners and edges bent toward to the top, and
(vi) a thin form factor

That comes from an unofficial translation of the ruling performed by Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents, and it may help those of us not involved in patent litigation understand what Apple is contesting and why Samsung has been losing in Germany (though it won in The Netherlands in a separate court battle).

Apple doesn’t have a patent on media tablets, but the company was granted a Community patent based on those specific factors. Images of both the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 were also used in the case, as were actual devices, which were presented in court.

Looking first at The Kubrick Defense, the court wrote that, “The depictions in the science fiction movies 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Tomorrow People are too unclear to discern a specific design. […] In particular, the movie sequences do not show whether the glass front is surrounded by only a thin case frame, whether the display is in a lower position than the surrounding frame, and exactly how the edges, bezels and the back are designed.”

The court also looked at a project called the “tablet newspaper” by publishing giant Knight-Ridder in 1995 and a Windows tablet PC from 2002 called the HP Compaq TC 1000. In the ruling, the court said that these represented the “closest prior art” for the iPad, but rejected the idea that they nullified Apple’s Community Patent.

“Even those products are clearly distinguishable in their overall impression from the asserted Community design and cannot anticipate it,” the court wrote. “Therefore, the question of whether the ‘tablet newspaper’ product study was ever known to domestic industry circles need not be addressed.”

The ruling also stated that, “While Knight-Ridder’s ‘tablet newspaper’ product study shows a rectangular front side with rounded corners and a display of a generally thin profile, its specifics, in particular, the design of the bezels and the back, are not exactly discernible. […] The lightness and puristic elegance of the asserted Community design is clearly not matched by [the Knight-Ridder design].”

As for the HP Windows tablet PC , the court said that this device is “clearly distinguishable” from the iPad. The older device doesn’t have a thin case frame surrounding the front side, the court said, and, “The HP Compaq TC 1000’s case frame makes a rather bulging impression.”

“All in all,” the court wrote, “the asserted Community design comes across as much leaner and more elegant than the rather heavy- and clumsy-looking HP Compaq TC 1000, which one cannot yet imagine to carry with oneself all the time.”

In other words, other than the fact both devices are tablets, Apple’s iPad has a distinctive look that in no way could be confused as being the nine year old HP Compaq TC 1000, and it’s that distinctive look for which Apple was awarded its Community Patent.

There is much and more information in the full translation at Foss Patent, but the details regarding Samsung’s Kubrick Defense is the main aspect that could be considered new news.

iStockphoto contributed some images in this article.