As it turns out, Apple isn’t above the law (and which is a bit behind the times)

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When Apple posted an apology on its UK website last month as part of the price it paid in losing a lawsuit brought by Samsung, it didn’t endear itself well to the High Court.

The lawsuit was filed by Samsung seeking a legal declaration that its Galaxy Tab tablet design did not infringe an Apple design patent for the iPad, of which Apple had accused Samsung of infringing.

Earlier this week, the high Court judge ordered Apple to take down the notice they did publish on October 25 within 24 hours and replace it with a new statement that complies with the legal order.

That first notice looked like this:

As Bloomberg reported on November 1, Apple’s post inserted four paragraphs including excerpts of the original court ruling regarding the tablets’ coolness that appear to favour Apple; and details of German lawsuits about similar issues that the court said weren’t true.

Bloomberg noted:

[...] “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 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."

So Apple bit the bullet and published a new notice a few days ago, which looks like this:

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The company also placed the same wording in ads in a number of UK national newspapers. So, all well and good and surely the end of the matter.

Not exactly.

Apple played a hidden tech card with a bit of JavaScript code, says Geekosystem this weekend, that tries to hide the notice on the website:

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[...] While it may at first simply seem like something that’s included for aesthetic reasons, as the JavaScript’s function is to resize the iPad banner, it’s telling that the code is included on the U.K. homepage. Some of the other versions of the homepage resize in the same way, but it’s certainly not universal. Canada and Japan both resize, but not the regular homepage for the United States. By resizing the banner, the JavaScript makes it to where users will always need to scroll down in order to see Apple’s statement. Even though the other versions of the site have the same layout, minus the statement about Samsung, they don’t include the JavaScript bit in question.

I wonder if the High Court will regard this as Apple playing fast and loose even more. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do; if so, will there be consequences for Apple?

What this suggests to me, more than anything else, is that court-ordered apology-type notices, such as in this case, were designed in the age of print where the only way to be contrite publicly in obeying a court order was to publish your notice in a mass medium, eg, one or more national newspapers.

Such mass media were the only means available to do this.

Now there’s the internet and the world wide web – and note: they’ve been around for some decades – and far more sophisticated publishing methods and tools than in those days of yore.

Perhaps in the future of court orders such as this, the law needs to consider how a notice is published along with what the notice actually says.

And one other note: take a look at what Apple UK’s website, and the notice concerned, look like on a mobile device, in this case, my Samsung Galaxy SII:

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Even though the screenshots are 50 percent actual size, Apple’s UK website is impossible on a mobile device. Looks even worse on an iPhone 4S with its smaller screen (3.5 inches versus the SII’s 4.3 inches).

Surely not fast and loose with mobile as well…

[Update Nov 9:] CNET reports that Apple has quietly pulled the apology-hiding code from its UK website:

[...] The Apple U.K. Web site now displays two alternating fixed-sized images of the iPad Mini and the new iPad with Retina display – refreshing the page cycles between the two recently launched products – while the four boxes underneath are no longer fixed to the bottom of the display. Although the central images are still large and many displays require the user to scroll down, the forced-scrolling "resize" code is no longer loaded into the Web site’s code.

Though the code still exists on Apple’s servers (it can be found here), it is no longer called upon when the U.K. Web site loads up.

Looks like common sense prevailed. Or was it legal or other pressure? Apple’s not saying anything, says CNET.

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About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.