Apple vs. Samsung: a detail everyone seems to have missed

So, I got a bit interested in this Apple vs. Samsung battle this morning, and I've caught something I think everyone else has missed.

What's happened is a German judge has granted Apple an injunction preventing the Galaxy Tab 10.1 being distributed in Europe, due to alleged infringement of Apple's 'Registered Community Design' 000181607-0001. RCDs are effectively design patents: they protect the design (not function) of something, and are supposed to protect only novel and unique designs.

The RCD in question has widely been cited as 'iPad-related' or 'iPad 2-related' in the media. This does not, however, seem to be the case. There's a simple detail arguing against it: the filing date. 000181607-0001 was filed 2004-05-24, and cites a previous U.S. registration of some kind (I'm having trouble finding it) dated 2004-03-17. Supporting this is the simple fact that the RCD in question doesn't look at all like an iPad - it doesn't have the circular button below the screen, or any ports on the side at all save a charging port.

The RCD database is actually searchable; the updates on Thom's OS News story clued me in to this. You can go to , enter 'Apple Inc.' as the owner, and browse through Apple's RCDs. And boy, are there a lot of them. Some of them are pretty absurd, as Thom noted.

So I went and searched through the RCD database, in descending date order, and lo and behold, I found the actual iPad RCDs. These were filed in July 2010, and - in contrast to the 2004 RCD - consist of what are clearly technical drawings and actual photos of the original model iPad. The group of RCDs all numbered 001222905-xxxx appear to cover the design of the iPad itself, and those numbered 001227003-xxxx seem to cover the UI.

Rather interestingly, the 001222905-0002 RCD - which seems to be the most basic 'this-is-an-iPad' RCD - is listed with status "Invalidity procedure pending".

There are no RCDs for the iPad 2 visible in the database. I suspect this may be because they're still in the review phase, or something. I find it extremely unlikely that Apple wouldn't actually have applied for some.

So there seems to be something odd going on here: if this is about the Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs. the iPad (2), why would they cite an RCD from 2004 which doesn't really seem to represent the design of the iPad (2) at all? There's probably some reason for this, but it's a point that most seem to have missed.

The RCD process seems to have obvious issues similar to the U.S. patent process: it is supposed to cover only novel and unique designs, but according to Wikipedia (page hasn't been edited since February, so I don't think there's any 'political' inaccuracy), there is no novelty test at the point of application (and some of the more ridiculous Apple RCDs seem to bear this out). So, like with U.S. patents (where there's supposed to be a novelty test, but it's frequently not done very well), it's probably easy to get an RCD granted which shouldn't really have been granted, and rather harder to invalidate it.


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