German Court Ban Throws The Towel On Galaxy Tab

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The beach towel of German litigation has made the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 ‘tabula non grata’, unless an appeal can be won, says Eric Doyle

The German courts have decided to permanently ban Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet from sale in a  judgement announced today – barring a successful appeal.

Delivering the verdict on Friday morning in Düsseldorf, Judge Johanna Brückner-Hofmann said, “The court is of the opinion that Apple’s minimalist design is not the only technical solution to make a tablet computer. Other designs are possible.”

Copycat Design

The argument that Apple based its case on is that the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 is a straight copy of the Apple iPad. Samsung’s counter-argument is that it is not an original design and there have been many concept designs that predate the first sketches of the iPad in 2004, including some tablet devices mocked up for Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 movie 2001 – A Space Odyssey.

The German court did not see this as a valid argument and went ahead to rubber-stamp the ban that was imposed after an initial hearing at the beginning of August.

When the Galaxy Tab was first banned in Germany, it was initially said that the ban would automatically apply across the European Union but this was withdrawn everywhere except Germany. The mere fact that a Düsseldorf court could contemplate throwing a legal beach towel over the Galaxy Tab seems ridiculous.

The fact that Samsung was not invited to the first hearing is also crazy. Under British law it would be overturned as outrageous. With its corporate hands tied, Samsung could not argue its point against Apple and the ban was almost inevitable. Since then nothing has changed.

The only routes open to Samsung now is to get the injunction overturned by the Higher Regional Court with a fast-track appeal, which could take a month or two, or by going to the Regional Court at the end of the main proceeding, which would probably take about a year – by which time the whole tablet bubble may have burst.

Until then, the preliminary injunction stays in force and Apple has a free rein in Germany.

In the Netherlands, Apple has not been so lucky and the courts there did not ban the device, but it did ban the tablet’s close relative the Galaxy smartphone. Apple has also pushed its case in Australia and Japan but the outcomes will not be known for a while.

All of this harms Samsung and its tablet hopes. Even where a ban is not in place, customers may turn a jaundiced eye on the Tab and choose some other, less controversial Android tablet alternative. RIM’s PlayBook may also pick up some traction, which it desperately needs if reports are true.

Could Have Been A Contender

The fact is that the look of the iPad has nothing to do with the case. All tablets look really smart and it will be display quality, operating system functionality, memory and external add-ons that will win the day. Samsung looked like a very able contender.

And price, of course, is probably the second biggest factor. The main issue being the battle between the Google Android operating system and Apple’s iOS. Microsoft and Apple seem to have formed some kind of unspoken alliance against Android which has already proved itself as a winner in the smartphone arena. Now they are buffeting the Android supporters with right hooks and left jabs as patent case after patent case is brought to court.

All of this will either knock Android onto its back or make the free operating system so expensive that other available operating systems will win through.

In my opinion, the tablet case is not about cosmetics but part of an attempt to hamstring Android and legally gain an advantage that will maintain Apple’s perceived dominance. It could even administer the kiss of life to the ailing near-corpse that is Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. So much for freedom to innovate.

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