Samsung's Galaxy tablet computer is not “cool” enough to be confused with Apple's iPad, a judge has ruled.
The American electronics giant had argued the Samsung Galaxy Tab was too similar to their own product, but the claim was dismissed today at London's High Court.
Judge Colin Birss QC said: "They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool."
He said consumers were not likely to get the two tablet computers mixed up and ruled the Samsung tablets do not infringe Apple's registered design.
"The informed user's overall impression of each of the Samsung Galaxy Tablets is the following: From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design; but the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back," he said.
"The overall impression produced is different."
The judge said that while the Tab and iPad look similar from the front, he noted differences in the thickness and details on the backs of the devices.
"There are some minor differences but to my eye there are two major differences. The most important difference between the Samsung Galaxy tablets and the Apple design is the thinness of the Galaxy tablets. The next most significant difference is the detailing on the back of each of the tablets."
The judge added: "To an informed user, the Galaxy tabs do not merely look like a thin version of the Apple design, they look like a different, thinner design of product."
He said he had questioned if those two differences were enough to overcome the similarity of the front of the devices and the overall shape of them.
Apple had argued that the front face and overall shape were the most important factors because the informed user would spend the most time looking at the front and holding it.
The judge said he did regard the overall shape as very significant but said there there was a very obvious visual similarity at the front.
"In my judgment the key to this case is the strength or significance of that similarity. As I have said, the significance of the near identity of the front surfaces of these products is reduced to a degree by the existence of similar fronts in the design corpus. The question is - to what degree?
"This case illustrates the importance of properly taking into account the informed user's knowledge and experience of the design corpus. When I first saw the Samsung products in this case I was struck by how similar they look to the Apple design when they are resting on a table. They look similar because they both have the same front screen. It stands out.
"However, to the informed user (which at that stage I was not) these screens do not stand out to anything like the same extent. The front view of the Apple design takes its place amongst its kindred prior art."
Apple has been given 21 days to appeal against the decision.
A spokeswoman for Samsung welcomed the ruling and accused Apple of "excessive legal claims".
She said: "Samsung welcomes today's judgment, which affirms our position that our Galaxy Tab products do not infringe Apple's registered design right. As the ruling proves, the origins of Apple's registered design features can be found in numerous examples of prior art.
"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."
An Apple spokesman said he would not comment specifically on today's ruling but reiterated the company's earlier claims against Samsung: "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."
Apple is bringing similar action against Samsung in Germany and the Netherlands.