Apple Inc. (AAPL) was criticized by U.K. judges for posting a notice on its website about a lawsuit with Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) that was "untrue" and "incorrect."
The U.K. Court of Appeal in London ordered Apple to remove the statement within 24 hours and replace it with a new notice acknowledging the inaccurate comments.
"I'm at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this," Judge Robin Jacob said today. "That is a plain breach of the order."
The decision is the latest in a lawsuit that produced a July judgment in which another London court said the design for three Samsung Galaxy tablets didn't infringe Apple's registered design because they were not "cool" enough. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, was told by the same court last month to post a notice about the ruling that Samsung's Galaxy tablets didn't copy the design of Apple's iPad.
The court's initial order was for a simple notice on its website about the Oct. 18 judgment meant to correct the impression Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung had copied Apple's product.
Apple's post, criticized by judges today, inserted four paragraphs including excerpts of the original cool ruling regarding the tablets' coolness that appear to favor Apple and details of German lawsuits about similar issues that the court today said weren't true.
The notice created the "impression that the U.K. court is out of step with other courts," Henry Carr, Samsung's lawyer, said in a filing.
"It was clear the judges were not happy with what Apple had done," Gary Moss, a lawyer at EIP Partnership LLP who isn't involved in the case but attended today's hearing, said in a phone interview. "They thought Apple was playing fast and loose."
Alan Hely, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment on the ruling. Michael Beloff, a lawyer for the company, told the court the comments were in line with the original order.
The notice "is not designed to punish, it is not designed to makes us grovel," Beloff said in court today. "The only purpose is to dispel commercial uncertainty."
Apple's request for 14 days to make the changes was rejected.
"I would like to see the head of Apple make an affidavit setting out the technical difficulties which means Apple can't put this on" their website, Jacob said. "I just can't believe the instructions you've been given. This is Apple. They cannot put something on their website?"
Apple must now add a three sentence note on its homepage in acknowledgment of "the incorrect statement," with a link to a new notice, the judges said today.
As part of the original order, Apple must publish notices in U.K. newspapers and trade magazines with details of the ruling. The Financial Times published the statement in today's edition on page four.
Patent and trademark disputes are playing out in courts around the globe as rivals including HTC Corp. (2498), Google Inc., Apple and Samsung fight for dominance in the smartphone and tablet computer markets. The Court of Appeal in the Oct. 18 ruling that called for the website notice criticized the split rulings from different national courts.
In August, Apple won a $1.05 billion U.S. jury verdict in a patent case between the companies. A week later a Tokyo court ruled Samsung products didn't infringe an Apple invention for synchronizing music and video data with servers. A German court in July granted Apple a Europe-wide injunction preventing Samsung from selling one model. Australian and Dutch courts have also issued rulings that contrasted with decisions in the U.S.