Under the Gavel: Insomniac justice

Justice may be blind, but to compensate, she never sleeps. And so while it may seem as though it were just the other day that we were assembling the latest news in the realm of law, it was in fact five days ago. Still, a lot’s happened in the intervening time—enough to warrant (get it?) the latest edition of our irregular legal feature, Under the Gavel.

Samsung down under

The patent war between Apple and Samsung moves to the Antipodean theater, as Bloomberg reports that the Korea-based company has agreed not to sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in Australia until the dispute with Apple is resolved. That deal was reportedly struck by lawyers from the two companies during a break from a hearing on the matter.

Sounds straightforward enough, until you add in the fact that Samsung says the deal covered only the the U.S. version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (pictured), which is the target of Apple’s claims. Instead, a different version of the tablet will be put on sale in Australia. (One does have to wonder how different a product marketed under the same exact name really could be, but I guess we’ll find out.)

In a statement to several news outlets, Samsung says it will release the Australian version of the tablet “in the near future”; Bloomberg says that the company also agreed to provide Apple with three samples of the product to evaluate at least a week before the device is scheduled to launch. If Apple should lose the patent case, the company’s agreed to pay Samsung unspecified damages.

A hearing on the matter has been scheduled by an Australian federal judge for August 29. Meanwhile, Apple is reportedly trying to block sale of Samsung’s tablet in other countries as well, though it’s not known exactly which ones.

Now if only I could convince the Macworld brass that we need a roving legal reporter…

Making a mountain out of an anthill

The latest development in patent litigation comes from a surprising source: It’s not Lodsys, or even Apple, but a coalition of developers, led by outspoken programmer Mike Lee.

In order to prevent companies like Lodsys from targeting small developers who can’t afford costly legal actions, Lee is leading the charge with the Appsterdam Legal Defense Team and Appsterdam Legal Defense Fund. The organization’s three-prong strategy consists of legal action (overwhelming companies that sue small developers by mobilizing huge numbers of small developers to fight back), legislation (trying to change the law to defend against future attacks), and a media campaign to influence public perception of patent law.

Lee has enlisted Texas attorney Michael McCoy to lead the fight, and says that a plan for action is being drawn up and will probably start in earnest next week.

Given the prevailing feelings among many independent developers—even those who haven’t been sued—an initiative like this might at least bolster morale. It’s certainly a worthy enough cause, though just how effective such a coalition will be when it runs up against the brick walls of the entrenched patent system and Washington politics remains to be seen.

You down with HTC?

On another front of the patent war, Apple and HTC are still in pitched battle, but HTC CEO Peter Chou last week called the two companies’ dispute a “distraction,” and said that it wouldn’t affect the Taiwan-based company’s bottom line. Granted, that didn’t stop HTC from suing Apple in the UK on the same day as Chou’s statement. So was that the distraction for the distraction?

X marks the spot

Remember Kim Hyung-Suk, the South Korean citizen who got a payout from Apple over the location-tracking case? Looks like he might just be the tip of the iceberg: A Korean law firm—of which Kim is apparently an attorney—is now seeking a 1 million won payout for each of the 27,802 members of the class action suit, bringing the total to around 27 billion won ($25.5 million). It’s like Where’s Waldo? except, you know, if Waldo sued you every time you found him.

Antitrust issues

The Department of Justice is reportedly looking into whether the $4.5 billion acquisition of Canada-based Nortel Networks’s patent portfolio by a consortium of high-profile tech companies will pass antitrust muster. The collection of companies includes Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion, and Sony, and has dubbed itself “Rockstar Bidco,” because they’ve all really wanted to be in a band since high school.

Now hear this

Having been ordered to pay $8 million to intellectual property firm Personal Audio, Apple is now protected from a subsequent lawsuit by the Texas-based company, thanks to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark. Clark said that Apple’s $8 million sum gives it a “fully paid up license that covers all past and future use” of Personal Audio’s technology. Hey, guys, like the man said—take the money and run.

iPods.com, for all your iPod needs

Surprising as it may be, Apple did not actually own iPods.com. Cupertino filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in May to wrest control of the domain name; now the dispute has been resolved, and Apple will shortly gain control of iPods.com. Phew! Only three years after the iPod hit its sales peak. I was going to make a joke about them shelling out for newton.com, but…

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