Apple has lost its appeal against a UK ruling that Samsung did not copy its iPad. The judge at the time ordered Apple to acknowledge the ruling with adverts that would "correct the damaging impression" that Samsung was a copycat, both on its own website and elsewhere.
Back in July of this year, we reported that Judge Colin Birss had ordered Apple to buy advertisements in major UK newspapers acknowledging his ruling that Samsung did not infringe on Apple's iPad design patents with its Galaxy Tab line of tablets.
Bizarrely, part of Judge Birss' reasoning was that the iPad is "cool" but Samsung tablets, while "very, very similar" when viewed from the front, "are not as cool". He added that they do not embody Apple's sense of "extreme simplicity".
The acknowledgement of the ruling, Birss said, had to be posted on Apple's British website for six months and appear in the Daily Mail, the Financial Times and the Guardian, among other UK national newspapers.
Apple appealed against the ruling - and the attached humiliation of acknowledging it publicly - but now faces defeat, and appears to have no choice but to set its ad agencies on the problem.
Perhaps a sarcastic allusion to Judge Birss's controversial reasoning may feature in the adverts. When we polled Macworld readers in July, the most popular tagline for adverts admitting that Samsung didn't copy the iPad was "We've been instructed to tell you that Samsung's tablets aren't as cool as ours".
Slightly more reserved suggestions, such as "The Samsung Galaxy Tab: definitely 100% not an iPad rip-off" and "Samsung Galaxy Tab: Think differenter" were far less popular with 6.9 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively.
Interestingly, one of the judges involved in the appeal process chose to make it clear that the case does not in fact revolve around a simple question of copying.
Sir Robin Jacob said: "Because this case, and parallel cases in other countries, has generated much publicity, it will avoid confusion to say what this case is about and not about.
"It is not about whether Samsung copied Apple's iPad. Infringement of a registered design does not involve any question of whether there was copying: the issue is simply whether the accused design is too close to the registered design according to the tests laid down in the law."
It's a significant setback in Apple's patent war against Samsung, which has ebbed back and forth with notable victories for both parties and a number of stalemates. Apple was victorious in the biggest battle of all - the courtroom showdown in its home state of California, which saw Samsung slapped with a billion-dollar fine - but Samsung has chalked up points in Europe, Australasia and Asia.
Apple has yet to comment on the defeat; unsurprisingly, Samsung has been more forthcoming.
"We continue to believe that Apple was not the first to design a tablet with a rectangular shape and rounded corners, and that the origins of Apple's registered design features can be found in numerous examples of prior art," a spokesperson stated.
"Should Apple continue to make excessive legal claims in other countries based on such generic designs, innovation in the industry could be harmed and consumer choice unduly limited."