Samsung does not infringe on Apple's multitouch patent, Dutch court rules

The court ruling on the patent is in line with other European courts considering the same smartphone technology

Samsung's Galaxy devices don't infringe on an Apple multitouch patent that describes technology that prevents smartphone users from pushing two on-screen buttons at the same time, the Court of the Hague ruled on Wednesday. The technique used in Android is sufficiently different from Apple's patent, the judge said.

"The court judges that Samsung with the trading of its Galaxy products does not infringe on EP 948," said judge Peter Blok and two other judges. "Apple, as the unsuccessful party, will be ordered to pay the litigation costs," the judges wrote. Samsung's costs already exceed ¬325,247 ($422,000).

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Apple sued Samsung in the Netherlands over a a multitouch patent called "touch event model." The technology described in the patent disables parts of the screen of a multitouch device when an application developer deems it necessary to do so to avoid undesirable input.

In video games for instance, it is desirable for a player to operate different control buttons at the same time. But it can also be undesirable to let the gamer push parts of the screen such as the menu bar because that can interrupt the game unexpectedly. Therefore, developers need a method to let a user control some buttons on the screen simultaneously, while disabling others on the same screen.

Both Android and iOS have a method to disable parts of the touchscreen. Apple developed and patented a technique to prevent unwanted touches by giving each element of the user interface, also known as a "view," exclusivity. Android uses a more hierarchical, similar system and doesn't apply exclusivity to one "view", Samsungs lawyer argued during the plea hearing in September, adding that Samsung's Galay's therefore do not infringe on Apple's patent.

The judges mostly followed this line of argumentation. The technology used in Android is sufficiently different from Apple's patented technology, the judges wrote. Most important is that professional developers who are familiar with the possibilities to disable part of a touch screen to prevent unwanted input, will assume that the technique used in Android 2.3, 3.0 and higher -- which Apple said Samsung's Galaxy infringed on -- "do not fall under the protection of the scope of the patent", according to the verdict.

Apple can appeal this verdict, a spokeswoman for the Court of The Hague said. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

A Samsung spokeswoman said in an emailed statement it welcomed the ruling, "which affirms our position that our products do not infringe Apple's intellectual property", Samsung said. "We will continue to further develop and introduce products that enhance the lives of Dutch consumers," Samsung added.

Today's verdict is in line with earlier European decisions concerning litigation over this patent in Europe which the Dutch judges said they considered.

Apple was also denied an injunction on Samsung's products in preliminary proceedings regarding the same patent at the Court of the Hague last year. In July, Apple was also denied an injunction against HTC in the U.K. in a case concerning the same patent, Apple appealed that case. The lower regional of Mannheim also ruled in September that Samsung's Galaxy products do not infringe on Apple's "touch event model" patent.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com.

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