Samsung ruled "not cool"

Samsung did not copy Apple’s iPad, High Court finds.

London’s High Court yesterday dismissed Apple’s claims, made last year, that the Korean manufacturer’s Galaxy Tab infringes the iPad design. Samsung’s designs did not have "the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design", Judge Colin Birss QC ruled. "They are not as cool."

The ruling is part of an ongoing global conflict over intellectual property between Apple and manufacturers of tablet computers and smartphones using Google’s Android mobile operating system.

The court found two major design differences between Samsung’s and Apple’s models. Galaxy Tabs were significantly thinner than the iPad designs, while the back detailing also distinguished Samsung’s design. "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", the judgement noted.

The judge said that it was unlikely that consumers would confuse the two designs. "The overall impression produced is different."

Samsung is the manufacturer of the most significant rivals to Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Its response to the ruling accused Apple of "ongoing efforts to reduce consumer choice and innovation in the tablet market through their excessive legal claims and arguments".

A spokesman for Samsung highlighted the computer’s distinctive back design, "a part of tablets that allows designers a high degree of freedom for creativity".

This is the second defeat for Apple in the British courts in less than a week. On Wednesday it lost a dispute over technology patents to HTC. The High Court found that the Taiwanese Android manufacturer had not infringed the patents, or that in covering "obvious" iPhone features, they were invalid.

Apple did not comment on the specific ruling, but repeated its earlier claims against Samsung. "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", a spokesman for the US company said.

Apple has been given 21 days to appeal against the British ruling.

Not cool. Photograph, Getty Images.

En Liang Khong is an arts writer and cellist.

Follow on twitter @en_khong

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I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.