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Samsung hits back at Apple via invalidating design patents

Samsung hits back at Apple via invalidating design patents

Posted October. 05, 2011 03:41,   


Samsung Electronics is undergoing a process through which it can invalidate the design patent rights of Apple’s iPad within the European Union.

This is an apparent sign that the Korean electronics giant is trying to block any design attack from Apple by using Europe’s unique design patent rights system, the very system Apple used to attack Samsung.

A Samsung source said Tuesday, “We asked the Spain-based Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, or OHIM, on Aug. 9 for a declaratory judgment of invalidity on Apple’s design patent rights. The process is ongoing.”

A court in Düsseldorf, Germany, banned the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 1.0 tablet PC on Aug. 9.

The invalidation suit is different from Samsung’s 27 suits in nine countries because it can stop Apple from exercising design patent rights in Europe. This will also nullify design-related suits ongoing in European countries, allowing the sale of the Galaxy Tab to resume in Germany.

OHIM is an EU agency reviewing trademarks and design of EU member states. It manages a unique European style design system in which a design can exercise its rights in all EU member countries after registration with the agency.

Because the patent goes through no screening, anyone eligible to submit related documents can acquire design rights, which are initially guaranteed for five years and can be renewed for up to 25 years.

Apple registered a square-shaped tablet PC design used in its iPad to OHIM in 2004. Based on the registration, it chose a Düsseldorf court famous for ruling in favor for the plaintiff and got a sales ban against Samsung.

A lawyer in Europe said, “Courts in Europe, especially those in Germany, only judge whether there has been infringement of registered intellectual rights. They don’t easily conclude whether the rights are invalid. They are very conservative.”

Samsung raised the invalidation suit to OHIM because without consulting the EU agency that gave the Apple the patent rights, any verdict can be disadvantageous to Samsung.

Experts say the results remain unknown, however. Many European companies earn profits through design patents, such patent systems are set up considerably better than other patents, and courts rule in favor of companies with the original rights.