- UK judge rules Galaxy Tabs "not cool" enough to be mistaken for iPads
- Apple claimed three models were too similar to its iPad design
- Apple has 21 days to appeal against the UK ruling
- Rivals access Apple of using its patents aggressively to disrupt sales
Samsung successfully fended off a legal move by Apple to block the sale of its tablet computers in the UK but only after suffering the indignity of a judge ruling that its Galaxy Tabs were "not cool" enough to be mistaken for iPads.
Apple had claimed three models of the Galaxy Tab too closely resembled the design of the iPad. But Judge Colin Birss ruled that there were noticeable differences between the tablets in terms of their thickness and the designs on the back.
"They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design," the judge said of the Samsung gadgets. "They are not as cool."
The ruling is the latest skirmish in a global patent battle that Apple has been waging since 2010 against companies like Samsung and HTC which produce tablet computers and mobile phones using Google's Android operating system. Such devices are the biggest commercial threat to Apple, and rivals have accused the US company of using its patents aggressively to disrupt their sales.
Last month Apple persuaded a San Jose court to put a temporary block on sales of Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets in the US, pending a full court trial over patent claims at the end of July. Last week an appeals court lifted the ban on smartphone sales while upholding the block on sales of the tablet.
Apple shipped 11.8m iPads during the first three months of the year, giving it a worldwide market share of 68 per cent, according to IDC, the technology research company. Samsung devices have started to gain traction, however, taking the South Korean company to second place in global market share in the first quarter.
Despite the legal wrangling, Samsung reported record operating profits last week, largely on the back of sales of its Galaxy smartphones. The company has said it expects to have sold more than 10m units of its latest smartphone, the Galaxy SIII, by July.
Apple has been given 21 days to appeal against the UK ruling. It said: "It's no coincidence that Samsung's latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging. This kind of blatant copying is wrong and, as we've said many times before, we need to protect Apple's intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."
Samsung welcomed the ruling and said: "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."