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Latest Court Ruling Goes Against Apple

In the catalogue of on-going international lawsuits between Apple and other major technology players in the market place, a ruling was made by a German court on Tuesday in relation to Apple’s lawsuit against Motorola for alleged patent infringements with their design of Xoom.

Apple had alleged that the Motorola Xoom infringed three separate iPad patented designs with the Xoom and had sought to have the device banned and withdrawn from sale across Europe. The German court ruled that the Google Inc’s (GOOG) Motorola Mobility manufactured Xoom tablet does not infringe on the Apple IPad design.  However, in a minor victory for Apple, the court rejected a counter claim submitted by Motorola that would have resulted in the Apple iPad’s patent being ruled invalid.

Both sides would leave court bearing the costs of the battle, with the court deciding that as they had ultimately rejected both parties’ claims, both should pay costs, two-thirds by Apple and the remaining third to be paid by Motorola.

The final ruling is perhaps not overly surprising, given comments previously made during the two hearings prior to the ruling.  Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann commented back in March that features, including evenly bent back and shaped edges on the front of the Xoom tablet might be considered sufficient to give the product individual character.

Apple and its iPad design are becoming familiar with the German courts following further recent rulings by the Dusseldorf courts, more successful for Apple than in this case.  Last year Apple was successful in obtaining a ruling banning in Germany two tablets manufactured by South Korean rival Samsung, however, they failed recently to obtain a similar ban in an English court to obtain a ban on the Samsung Galaxy tabs.  In that case, the judge determined there was sufficient differences in the products and in a comment that may have made Apple executives smile despite the defeat, that overall the Samsung tab just wasn’t as “cool” as the iPad.

On the continuing international circus of Apple lawsuits and counterclaims, all eyes now turn to the U.S.  Apple sued Samsung last year in the States and a highly anticipated trial is scheduled to begin at the end of July.  Crucially, if Apple is successful in this case, it could achieve a permanent ban on the sale of some Samsung products in this key part of the world market. US District Judge Lucy Koh of San Jose, California has already granted pre-trial injunctions against Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Galaxy Nexus phone, with Samsung appealing both of these orders.

Whilst the recent outcomes in Europe suggest the tide might have turned against Apple, it will be a major victory for them if they achieve success in the latest case to hit the US courts.  If the ruling goes against Samsung, is it possible that a ban on Samsung’s flagship Android smartphone would follow?  This would definitely be bad news for the company as well as Google who develop the Android OS. Concerns have already been raised that excessive legal claims from Apple over generic design could harm the industry’s potential to innovate as well as severely limit consumer choice.

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