Samsung Electronics

South Korean court ruling clears Samsung of copying iPhone design

South Korean court ruling penalises firm and rival Apple for violating each other's patents

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 1:01pm

Samsung Electronics' flagship Galaxy S smartphone looks very similar to Apple's iPhone, but the South Korean firm has not violated the iPhone design, a Seoul court ruled yesterday.

The ruling comes as the two tech titans are locked in a global patent battle that mirrors a fierce rivalry for industry supremacy between two companies that control more than half the world's smartphone sales.

Yesterday's ruling comes before more crucial verdicts in the United States. Jurors in California began deliberations on Wednesday in one of many disputes between the two firms around the world that analysts see as partly aimed at curbing the spread of Google's Android, the most used mobile software.

"There are lots of external design similarities between the iPhone and Galaxy S, such as rounded corners and large screens … but these similarities had been documented in previous products," a judge at the Seoul Central District Court said.

The judge said it was difficult to say that consumers would confuse the iPhone with the Galaxy given they clearly have the respective company logos on the back of each model, and consumers also factor in operating systems, brand, applications, price and services when buying a phone.

But the judge ordered Samsung to immediately stop selling 10 products, including the Galaxy S II, and also banned sales of four Apple products, including the iPhone 4 and iPad 2.

The court ruled that Apple infringed on two of Samsung's wireless technology patents. Apple was ordered to pay Samsung 40 million won (HK$272,000). Samsung was fined 25 million won for violating one patent relating to a so-called "bouncing-back" function used when scrolling electronic documents.

The wrangle was triggered by Apple's lawsuit in April last year claiming Samsung slavishly copied Apple's smartphones and tablets. Samsung countered that it simply developed its own "unique" products in a bid to "best the competition" and that Apple actually owes money for using its patented technology.

In the United States, Apple is demanding more than US$2.5 billion in damages and an order to permanently ban Samsung from selling patent-infringing products. Samsung argues Apple owes US$422 million for violating a clutch of its patents.