It's starting to look like Samsung has created a successful workaround to Apple's European design rights with the new Galaxy Tab 10.1N. The Dusseldorf Regional Court in Germany denied Apple's bid yesterday for a ban on the Samsung tablet, holding that "the Galaxy Tab 10.1N now sufficiently differs from the form Apple has registered as a design right." The court went on to rule that "Apple's iPads and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1N now are two competing products of equal value." This decision comes just over a week after a Munich court preliminarily held that Samsung's Tab 10.1N and Galaxy Nexus devices didn't infringe an Apple patent related to touch interface technology.
You'll recall that we first caught a glimpse of the Galaxy Tab 10.1N back in November — with a redesigned metal frame that wraps around the left and right sides of the device, slightly intruding onto the glass. The Tab 10.1N also included, for the first time, forward-facing speakers integrated into these side frames. This new design was a direct response to claims, in Germany and elsewhere, that Samsung's tablet infringed Apple's design coverage for the iPad — and it appears to have been a successful design strategy, at least in Europe.
With the original injunctions on the Tab 10.1, and the delays in getting legal acceptance for the new Tab 10.1N model, it may be that it's simply too late for this particular Samsung line of tablets to get a foothold in the market. However, the courts have given Samsung some options for designing future tablets that may be able to skirt various Apple patents. Time will tell.